House approves bill seeking revocation of SMNI’s franchise

House of Representatives
House of RepresentativesFile photo

THE House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a bill seeking the revocation of the franchise of Swara Sug Media Corporation (SSMC), which operates Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI).

The lower chamber approved House Bill (HB) 9710, which seeks to repeal Republic Act (RA) 11422, which extended the franchise granted to SSMC under RA 8122 for an additional 25 years in August 2019, after it received 284 affirmative votes, four no votes and four abstentions.

Representative Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez of the 1-Rider party-list filed the bill due to SMNI’s involvement in the proliferation of fake news, as well as red tagging, which stemmed from the claims of its two program hosts, former anti-insurgency task force spokesperson Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz.

Badoy and Celiz, who claimed to be a former high-ranking official of the New People's Army, said that House Speaker Martin Romualdez spent P1.8 billion in just a year for his foreign trips.

Romualdez denied the allegation, while Celiz later admitted that the information was “unverified.”

It was also cited in the bill other “serious corporate offenses” committed by SSMC after the SMNI “openly” admitted to transitioning from a non-stock, non-profit corporation to a sole corporation under Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KJC) leader Pastor Apollo Quiboloy in 2006, the owner of SMNI.

In 2023, the controlling stake was transferred to Brother Marlon Acobo, with both transactions taking place without obtaining congressional approval. This violates Section 10 of RA 11422, which stipulates the requisite congressional approval for such changes, explicitly prohibiting the sale, lease, transfer, or assignment of the franchise without prior congressional consent.

Also under RA 11422, the Congress should be notified about any transaction involving the franchise's sale, lease, transfer, or assignment within 60 days or it may trigger the revocation of franchise.

Romualdez defended the revocation of SMNI’s franchise, calling it a “decisive action” that “underscores our commitment to uphold the integrity of broadcasting standards and the public’s trust.”

“Tinutupad lamang po natin ang mandatong ini-atang sa atin ng Konstitusyon at ng taongbayan. Walang personalan dito. Trabaho lang,” he said.

HB 9710, along with Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 7, which contains the House’s own version of the proposed amendments to the Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions, will be submitted to the Senate.

RBH 7 was also passed on the third and final reading in a plenary deliberation on Wednesday afternoon.

The chamber also approved 19 priority measures of President Ferdinand Marcos’ administration on third and final reading before the five-week Lenten break. These measures include the following:

* Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System

* Negros Island Region

* Philippine Maritime Zones Act

* Amendments to the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act

* Philippine Defense Industry Development Act (PDIDA)/Self-Reliant Defense Posture Act

* Valuation Reform bill

* Waste-to-Energy bill

* Instituting a National Citizens Service Training (NCST) Program

* E-Government/E-Governance Act

* Anti-Financial Accounts Scamming Act (AFASA)

* Enabling law for the Natural Gas Industry

* Value Added Tax on Digital Services

* Open Access in Data Transmission Act

* Military and Uniformed Personnel Pension Reform bill

* Blue Economy Act

* Amendments to the Government Procurement Reform Act

* Act Establishing the Department of Water Resources and Services

* Academic Recovery and Accessible Learning (ARAL) Program Act and

* Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises to Maximize Opportunities for Reinvigorating the Economy (Create More)

Romualdez authorized, however, all standing and special committees to conduct hearings if deemed necessary, during the House recess from March 21, 2024 to April 28, 2024.

“The House remains steadfast in its commitment to serve the Filipino people. Allowing committee hearings during the break demonstrates our dedication to fulfilling our duties as legislators and addressing the needs of our constituents,” he said. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)


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