SMNI asks NTC to specify network’s violations

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
SMNI asks NTC to specify network�s violations
This photo shows a picture of the National Telecommuncations Commission's building in Quezon City.

MANILA, Philippines — Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) filed a pleading before the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Thursday, asking the commission to specify the violations committed by the network. 

SMNI asked this through its lawyers Mark Tolentino and Rolex Suplico as it filed a motion for Bill of Particulars before the NTC, asking the commission to explain in detail the network’s franchise violations with attached documentary evidence. 

“The Order of 19 December 2023 did not specify the violation, by the respondent, of its Certificate of Public Convenience, which is within the purview and jurisdiction of this Honorable Office,” SMNI’s motion read.

“As such the respondent cannot intelligently file a responsive pleading without first being informed of the charges against it, particularly its violation of its Certificate of Public Convenience,” it added.

A motion for Bill of Particulars is a motion that a respondent can file or an accused can ask a complainant or a petitioner to specify the alleged defects of the complaint or information and the details desired.

On December 19, the NTC imposed a 30-day suspension on SMNI, a network owned by Apollo Quiboloy, who is on the most wanted list of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The network's hosts, known for red-tagging, were prohibited from airing following House Resolution 189 approved by the House of Representatives (HoR).

The House Resolution accused the Quiboloy-owned network of intentionally disseminating false information, transferring shares without congressional approval, and failing to make at least 30% of its outstanding stock available.

On January 4, SMNI also asked the NTC to direct its commissioners to inhibit the network’s franchise violation case.

It argued that the commission’s “impartiality” being both the complainant and the judge violates due process of law. 

The Quiboloy-owned network has also submitted a petition before the Court of Appeals (CA) on Dec. 28, 2023, asking the high court to halt NTC’s suspension of the network.

The CA has yet to release the decision of the network's petition.

In a statement, the NTC said it has acknowledged SMNI’s motion for Bill of Particulars and also granted the network’s request for a 15-day extension for a response.

“The NTC is objectively studying Respondent Swara Sug/SMNI's afore-mentioned Motions, and shall proceed to consider and resolve the same in adherence to the provisions of NTC's Rules of Procedure, and tenets of fair play and due process,” the commission’s statement read. 

MTRCB appeal

On the same day, SMNI’s lawyers also filed an appeal before the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) asking the board to lift the suspension of two programs of the network — “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa,” hosted by Quiboloy and former President Rodrigo Duterte and “Laban Kasama ang Bayan,” hosted by Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz.

“Wherefore, considering all the foregoing, it is respectfully prayed of this Honorable Office that the decision dated 03 January 2024 be reconsidered and set aside and that the suspension for a period of 28 days inclusive of the 14 days preventive suspension period be lifted,” it said.

According to the SMNI’s motion, the suspension violated the right to freedom of speech, freedom of expression of the press, and due process of law.

The board first issued a 14-day preventive suspension on December 14 to probe the alleged violations of the network.

On January 3, the MTRCB said that Duterte and Badoy's television programs had violated Section 3 paragraph C of the Presidential Decree 1986 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations. This prompted the board to impose a 28-day suspension of the program. 

Section 3 of the referenced Presidential Decree delineates the authority and duties of the MTRCB. In paragraph C, it specifies the board's ability to suspend television programs deemed "objectionable" for various reasons such as immorality, indecency, violation of law and/or good customs, harm to the reputation of the Republic of the Philippines or its people, or having a dangerous tendency to encourage violence or the commission of a wrong or crime.

The MTCRB said in a statement that it also acknowledged SMNI’s appeal.

“It is within SMNI's rights to file such a motion. This is part of the due process afforded to all entities dealing with our office. We will thoroughly review SMNI's motion for reconsideration in strict accordance with our functions and responsibilities as mandated by Presidential Decree 1986,” the board’s statement read.

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