House questions SMNI’s China TV partnership

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
House questions SMNI�s China TV partnership
Navotas City Rep. Toby Tiangco raised this during yesterday’s continuation of the hearing of the House committee on legislative franchises on the alleged involvement of SMNI in spreading disinformation.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — A House panel yesterday questioned the partnership of broadcasting company Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) with state-run Chinese Global TV Network (CGTN), citing the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Navotas City Rep. Toby Tiangco raised this during yesterday’s continuation of the hearing of the House committee on legislative franchises on the alleged involvement of SMNI in spreading disinformation.

“This is very dangerous if a franchise holder has a cooperation or collaboration with the Chinese government state-owned China media network, which we all know that (the information) China has been releasing especially on WPS are pure lies,” he said.

“What is the effect of this... on those given the franchise by Congress?” Tiangco noted.

SMNI legal counsel Mark Tolentino clarified the agreement is only for the SMNI Foundation and Chinese embassy “with respect to the basketball court in Davao City and Leyte.”

Tolentino added that with regard to the partnership between SMNI and CGTN, “there is no written agreement yet” as it is still in the process of negotiation.

Christina San Pedro, of SMNI Operation, said the agreement only covers sharing of video footage between the two networks. San Pedro claimed CGTN could not dictate on SMNI about news content that the latter would air.

Franchise suspension

The House committee on legislative franchises has adopted yesterday House Resolution 1499, urging the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to suspend the operation of SMNI for “gross violation” of its legislative franchise.

In yesterday’s hearing on the probe related to SMNI’s alleged franchise violations, Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Rep. Margarita Nograles, author of the resolution, urged the Securities and Exchange Commission to terminate SMNI’s SEC registration “due to fraud, which is a violation of the Revised Corporation Code.”

Voting anonymously with an abstention by Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel, HR 1499 was adopted for plenary approval.

During the hearing, Nograles said SMNI committed gross violations of its franchise including irresponsible and reckless practice of broadcasting fake and baseless stories, and unlawful corporate practices.

The other violations of SMNI, the resolution said, are its deliberate dissemination of false information; transferring its controlling interest without prior approval of Congress and for not reporting to Congress within 60 days after the transfer; and failure to comply with the mandated 30 percent dispersal of ownership to the public, among others.

Habeas corpus sought

The families of SMNI anchors Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz are asking the Supreme Court (SC) to order their release from detention after being cited in contempt by a House of Representatives.

Walter Pertosa, Badoy’s husband, and Rogilda Canilao Celiz, the wife of Celiz, represented by former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, filed a petition for certiorari and issuance of a writ of habeas corpus before the SC on Dec. 11.

Among the respondents are the House committee on legislative franchises and House Sergeant-of-Arms Napoleon Taas.

In their 34-page petition, they argued that the House committee on legislative franchise committed grave abuse of discretion in exercising their contempt powers, adding that the detention of Badoy and Celiz “constitutes an unlawful punishment for the exercise of their right to freedom of expression and of the press.”

“The Respondent Committee used its contempt powers in an extraordinary and improper manner to punish the petitioners for exercising their right to freedom of speech,” the petition read.

The contempt charges stemmed from Badoy’s and Celiz’s alleged disrespectful conduct and refusal to answer questions during a Dec. 5 inquiry by the House panel.

The source

Panel chair and Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting said Celiz had identified to him the source of the story when the congressman visited Celiz in his detention facility at the House of Representatives.

“I asked if he was willing to divulge the person to me, because they did not want to say it in an executive session, and a name was given. There’s a source,” Tambunting said.

He said Celiz’s source is a man, and contrary to earlier reports, the source is not from the Senate. – Daphne Galvez

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