By Filane Mikee Cervantes

(File photo)

MANILA – The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on third and final reading a measure revoking the legislative franchise granted to Swara Sug Media Corporation, which operates under the business name Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI).

During the plenary session on Wednesday, the chamber approved House Bill 9710 with 284 affirmative votes, four negative votes, and four abstentions.

The bill seeks to repeal Republic Act No. 11422 or the law granting Swara Sug’s 25-year franchise.

1-Rider Party-list Rep. Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez, the author of the bill, said SMNI has committed several franchise violations, which should not be “countenanced.”

Gutierrez said the network violated Section 4 of its franchise grant on its responsibility to the public for its failure to deliver truthful and balanced reporting to its audience.

He said SMNI also violated Section 7 on self-regulation about the numerous allegations, indictments and findings surrounding SMNI’s involvement in red-tagging and fake news peddling.

He further claimed the network breached Section 10 on the provisions for sale, lease and transfer of ownership, as well as Section 11 on the dispersal of ownership requirement.

“Sections 10 and 11 carry with them ipso facto provisions for their revocation,” he said.

Camarines Sur Rep. Gabriel Bordado voted in favor of the bill, emphasizing that while he values press freedom and free expression, these liberties require responsibility.

“When you trifle or do away with this responsibility however, then we transform freedom into systematic oppression and repression,” Bordado said.

Investigations against the network began after Quezon Rep. David Suarez called on the House legislative franchises committee to look into allegations made by SMNI hosts that Speaker Martin Romualdez has a PHP1.8 billion travel fund.

House Secretary General Reginald Velasco clarified that the Office of the Speaker’s travel expenses for foreign trips amounted to PHP4.3 million from January to October 2023.

Velasco, meanwhile, noted that the total travel expenses incurred by all other lawmakers and the House Secretariat for the same period totaled PHP35.25 million. (PNA)