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SMNI anchor apologizes for report on Speaker’s travel expenses

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Davao City-based Sonshine Media Network Inc. (SMNI) has apologized over its “unverified” reports that Speaker Martin Romualdez had spent some P1.8 billion for travel.

SMNI program anchor Jeffrey Celiz admitted during a hearing of the House committee on legislative franchise on Thursday that they failed to validate the information that they received from his source about Romualdez’s travel expenses.

“We are very much willing to admit that, indeed, the source was wrong. In this committee hearing, we are very appreciative of the guidance provided by the data,” Celiz said.

He pointed out that he did not intend to disrespect the chamber through their report but maintained it was within his “editorial authority.”

“Without any intent of malice or imputing any sign of disrespect to the Speaker of the House because we presume it is part of our editorial authority and policy as well to open questions pertaining to public interest issues,” he claimed.

Asked by Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel if Celiz was willing to recant his statement and apologize to Congress, Celiz replied in the “affirmative.”

“If that will heal the wound of the degree of insult that was forwarded to Congress, if that will be the effect, it is not a problem for me personally because it is our job to point out mistakes but it is also our duty to ask questions… Yes sir, my answer is on the affirmative,” Celiz maintained.

During the hearing, House secretary general Reginald Velasco reported that the Office of the Speaker, House Secretariat and House members posted a total of P39,605,123 in expenses from January to October this year.

Velasco added that of this amount, P4,347,712 were disbursed by the Office of the Speaker while P35,257,411 were spent by the House Secretariat and other members of the chamber during their official trips.

The panel, chaired by Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting, was directed by the House plenary to conduct an inquiry into the SMNI report after several lawmakers filed resolutions about the “fake news” allegedly being peddled and the red tagging of individuals by the broadcasting company.

It was directed to investigate if SMNI had violated any provision in its legislative franchise that was acquired by the station in August 2019 and allowing it to operate for 25 years or until 2044.

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