By Wilnard Bacelonia

Senate building (PNA file photo)

MANILA – The Committee on Public Services chaired by Senator Grace Poe shall seek a consensus on the proposed franchise revocation of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) once the bill is transmitted to the Senate and referred to the panel.

This, after the House of Representatives approved on Wednesday the bill revoking the legislative franchise granted to Swara Sug Media Corporation, which operates under the business name SMNI.

“On this, we will always be guided by the principle that a franchise is a privilege, and that grantees should always abide by the tenets of fairness and public welfare,” Poe said in a statement on Thursday.

She explained that the appropriate manner of effecting franchise revocation is through a repeal of the franchise law.

“Thus, the repealing statute must undergo the same legislative process as when a bill is passed into law,” she added.

However, Poe pointed out that the franchise bill has never been listed as a priority, so she has to defer to the Senate leadership on the pace of its disposition.

“To my knowledge, this is the first instance that a proposal for a franchise revocation has made significant progress in Congress. We should subject this to utmost study and scrutiny as this shall set a precedent for future legislative franchises,” she said.

“Whether it’s a constitutional amendment or a legislative franchise, the Senate prioritizes measures according to the needs of the country. The people set the deadline. We just listen,” she added.

A total of 284 congressmen voted in favor of House Bill No. 9710 which seeks to repeal Republic Act No. 11422 or the law granting SMNI its 25-year legislative franchise.

Transmitted

Shortly after the final approval, the House of Representatives transmitted House Bill 9710 upon the motion of Deputy Majority Leader, Isabela 6th District Rep. Faustino “Inno” Dy.

House Deputy Speaker, TUCP Party-list Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza, swiftly approved after no member opposed the motion.

The revocation of SMNI’s franchise was prompted by a series of violations, including spreading fake news, involvement in red-tagging, and committing serious corporate offenses.

House Speaker Romualdez defended the revocation of SMNI’s franchise, calling it a “decisive action” that “underscores our commitment to uphold the integrity of broadcasting standards and the public’s trust.”

SMNI openly admitted to transitioning from a non-stock, non-profit corporation to a sole corporation under Pastor Apollo Quiboloy in 2006.

Later, in 2023, the controlling stake was transferred to Bro. Marlon Acobo, with both transactions taking place without obtaining congressional approval.

Section 10 of RA 11422 stipulates the requisite congressional approval for such changes, explicitly prohibiting the sale, lease, transfer, or assignment of the franchise without prior congressional consent.

The same section mandates informing Congress within 60 days of any transaction involving the franchise’s sale, lease, transfer, or assignment.

Failure to report such changes of ownership, as mandated by Section 10, automatically triggers revocation of the franchise. (With a report from Zaldy de Layola/PNA)