By Filane Mikee Cervantes

FREED. Sonshine Media Network International hosts Lorraine Badoy (left) and Jeffrey Celiz (3rd from left) appear before the House Committee on Legislative Franchises hearing into alleged fake news peddling on Dec. 5, 2023. They were detained at Batasang Pambansa for being disrespectful and untruthful but were ordered released Tuesday (Dec. 12). (Photo courtesy of the House Press and Public Affairs) 

MANILA – The House Committee on Legislative Franchises on Tuesday released Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) hosts Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celiz from detention on humanitarian grounds.

The panel unanimously voted to allow the release of Badoy and Celiz after a closed-door meeting, considering that both SMNI hosts have apologized for their behavior according to committee chairperson Gus Tambunting.

Sila po ay papalayain for humanitarian reasons dahil Kapaskuhan. May sulat naman tayo galing kay Ka Eric na sila ay humihingi ng paumanhin sa kanilang ginawa (They will be released for humanitarian reasons because it’s the Christmas season. We also received a letter from Ka Eric that they [Celiz and Badoy] have asked for forgiveness for their actions),” he said.

Lawmakers ordered Celiz’ detention after he refused to disclose the identity of his source on Speaker Martin Romualdez’s supposed PHP1.8 billion travel expenses, aired in the SMNI show “Laban Kasama Ang Bayan.”

Badoy, a former official of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, was cited in contempt for “acting in a disrespectful manner” and her “conflicting statements” during the inquiry.

Tambunting said the panel would just summon Celiz and Badoy in future hearings on the SMNI issue, as he clarified that the House’s release order has nothing to do with the writ of habeas corpus filed by their spouses questioning their detention.

“They’re free to go. This is not a furlough. We’ve freed them from detention. If we need them, we’ll just call them back,” Tambunting said.

A habeas corpus writ is a court issuance asking an officer to present a detainee before the issuing court and prove the validity of their detention.

Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr., the duo’s legal counsel, said the suit asked to court to rule on whether the two broadcasters were covered by the Sotto Law, which protects journalists’ sources.

Named respondent was the Legislative Franchises committee.

“This is very clearly a grave and blatant abuse of the respondent committee’s discretion, which the Honorable Supreme Court has the power and the duty to strike down. The Committee should not be allowed to arbitrarily and capriciously toy with the liberty of the petitioners,” the petitioners said in their suit. (PNA)