SMNI defends discussion on Speaker’s travel expenses

SMNI defends discussion on Speaker’s travel expenses

THE SONSHINE Media Network International (SMNI) said on Thursday that it did not deliberately disseminate fake information when its anchors questioned a claim from an unnamed source that House Speaker Martin G. Romualdez spent more than P1.8 billion for trips abroad.

“What we are doing here, we acted in good faith… we are conducting an internal investigation on if there was a statement about the P1.8 billion,” Mark Tolentino, legal counsel for SMNI, told a House Legislative Franchise Committee hearing looking into alleged red-tagging and fake news peddling practices committed by the network.

“We deny that there’s a statement (on the fund), it was just a question answerable by yes or no,” Mr. Tolentino said.

Offering clarity to the issue, House Secretary General Reginald S. Velasco told the same hearing that the combined travel expense abroad for 2023 of Mr. Romualdez and other congressmen amounted to P39.6 million.

In his privilege speech on Tuesday, Quezon Rep. David C. Suarez asked the committee to investigate the claim made in the SMNI’s evening program, saying the report was designed to mislead the public and tarnish the reputation of the lower chamber and its Speaker.

“The franchise given to SMNI is not a right, it’s a privilege that comes with responsibility and norms that they should abide by,” said Mr. Suarez said.

“Any responsible media practitioner, if given information, would first validate that information before they go out in public,” he added.

SMNI is the broadcasting arm of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KJC) led by religious leader, Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy — the spiritual adviser of former president Rodrigo R. Duterte, who in recent weeks has been critical of the House. — John Victor D. Ordoñez