House frees 2 SMNI hosts; Quiboloy travel watch eyed

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star
House frees 2 SMNI hosts; Quiboloy travel watch eyed
Apollo Quiboloy, head of "the Kingdom of Jesus Christ," a non-Catholic religious group and spiritual adviser of president-elect Rodrigo Duterte, speaks during a press conference in Davao City in southern island of Mindanao on May 23, 2016.
AFP / Manman Dejeto

MANILA, Philippines — Citing humanitarian reasons, the House of Representatives released from detention yesterday two hosts of the Sonshine Media Network International.

SMNI co-hosts Jeffrey Celiz and Lorraine Badoy were cited in contempt and detained in the Batasang Pambansa following their appearance before the House committee on legislative franchises.

“The committee decided to release Jeffrey Celiz and Lorraine Badoy purely on humanitarian grounds. Dec. 13 is the last day of session and we do not want Mr. Celis and Ms. Badoy to spend their Christmas and New Year in detention,” panel head Parañaque City 2nd District Rep. Gus Tambunting said.

This developed as Sen. Risa Hontiveros will be requesting the Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue an immigration lookout bulletin order against Apollo Quiboloy to prevent him from leaving the country.

Quiboloy, a religious leader wanted in the US for sex trafficking of children, is the subject of complaints from former Kingdom of Jesus Christ followers.

“The proof is what I mentioned earlier, that the breadth of crimes and concerns about Quiboloy’s crimes is global, because he is already on the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) wanted list,” Hontiveros said.

“It is not bad if the DOJ and NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) contact their counterparts in the US to ensure that Quiboloy does not escape from the hands of the law and justice,” she added.

Hontiveros, chair of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality, filed Senate Resolution 884 to probe Quiboloy’s alleged crimes.

She noted that her office is still verifying pending cases filed against Quiboloy.

At yesterday’s press conference, she presented video testimonies of two former followers of Quiboloy.

A certain Arlene recalled that she was 15 years old when she joined the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

The religious group brought her and other members from Davao to Manila to sell puto and kutsinta and beg for donations in the streets.

“I personally experienced a beating from Quiboloy. It was 60 slashes and I also experienced being humiliated in front of the members and workers of Quiboloy,” she claimed.

Another former member, Jackson, was recruited in 1999 along with other teenagers. He echoed Arlene’s allegations.

“Quiboloy is said to have strong connections with people in the government and politicians, so they can ignore these cases. I don’t believe that,” Hontiveros said.

SMNI franchise

Meanwhile, due to irresponsible reporting and concealing ties with a Chinese television firm, a measure that aims to revoke the franchise of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) has been sent to the House committee on legislative franchises.

1-Rider party-list Rep. Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez authored House Bill 9710, which would result in the revocation of SMNI’s 25-year franchise (Republic Act 11422).

“Having exposed SMNI’s multiple franchise violations, it is incumbent upon the House to exercise its mandate... by repealing RA 11422 in the interest of justice and the common good,” Gutierrez stated in the measure.

SMNI officials were forced to admit on Monday about their collaboration with China Global Television Network, where legislators warned about information dissemination in light of China’s stance in the West Philippine Sea.

“The operation of SMNI is considered a threat to national security and stability as it continues to use its platform to disseminate unverified and untruthful statements,” Gutierrez added.

He also pointed out that “mere inclusion of any change in ownership in the annual report is not the compliance” stated under the law, “considering that the SMNI is operating as a business that requires 100 percent Filipino ownership, and any change therein requires scrutiny and acquiescence by Congress to protect public interest.”

SMNI’s admission before the Tambunting committee that versions of the notarized annual reports they submitted were “different” from those they filed at the Securities and Exchange Commission are “acts of the grantee (SMNI that) should not be countenanced.”

Tambunting pointed out that the release order on Celiz and Badoy has nothing to do with the petition of writ of habeas corpus filed by their spouses before the Supreme Court (SC).

In defending their move to cite the SMNI anchors in contempt, Tambunting maintained that the SC has held that committees of Congress have the power to conduct investigations or inquiries in aid of legislation and to exercise its power of oversight.

“We have taken cognizance Mr. Celiz’s apology, his admission that what he mentioned was fake news and his earnest appeal to be released to attend to his ailing mother,” he said.

Tambunting was referring to the SMNI hosts’ “unverified” allegation that Speaker Martin Romualdez incurred P1.8 billion in travel expenses.

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