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House panel summons televangelist Quiboloy for SMNI franchise probe

By: Jeanette Andrade - | February 08,2024 - 10:54 AM

Apollo Quiboloy

Apollo Quiboloy

The House committee on legislative franchises issued on Wednesday a subpoena to televangelist Apollo Quiboloy, requiring him to attend an inquiry about the franchise of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), believed to be owned by the founder of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC).

The committee, led by Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting, cautioned Quiboloy that ignoring the summons could lead to contempt charges and possible arrest.

Committee vice chair and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel moved for the issuance of a subpoena for Quiboloy on the prompting of Gabriela women’s party list Rep. Arlene Brosas, who said the televangelist appeared to have continuing influence over SMNI.

Brosas sought the subpoena after SMNI lawyer Mark Tolentino maintained that “Pastor Apollo Quiboloy is the honorary chairman of SMNI and he’s not part of the day-to-day operations of SMNI,” despite the lawmaker’s observation that Quiboloy was “credited” in all SMNI shows.

‘About time’

The House assistant minority leader said: “We have several questions for Pastor Quiboloy. I think it’s about time that we called for Pastor Quiboloy to come here and answer our questions, our specific questions because last time, we already requested this.”

“Heads of agencies come here in Congress to answer our important questions. Maybe it’s about time to have him sit down and face us so we could ask our questions directly to Pastor Quiboloy because these cannot be answered by just a lawyer,” she stressed.

Pimentel agreed with Brosas’ proposal, saying “we have already invited, not only once but on several occasions, Pastor Quiboloy to attend this hearing, considering that there are so many issues that need to be clarified, most of all his name which is in Swara Sug.”

“I’d like to move that we issue a subpoena to Pastor Quiboloy to compel him to be present during the next hearing. And may we remind Atty. Mark Tolentino that after the subpoena [and] Pastor Quiboloy does not appear, then we’ll be constrained to request for a warrant of arrest for him to appear here. Or rather to move for a contempt order… There the warrant would apply,” he said.

Franchise revocation

1-Rider party list Rep. Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez asked the committee to seriously consider the approval of House Bill No. 9710 on the revocation of the legislative franchise granted through Republic Act No. 11422 to Swara Sug Media Corp., operating under the business name SMNI, citing the network’s continued proliferation of fake news and Red-tagging in its shows on social media as well as its corporate offenses in violation of its franchise.

Gutierrez, author of HB 9710, maintained that previous deliberations have shown “clear facts” of SMNI’s violations of its franchise by spreading fake news and Red-tagging as well as its disregard of its reportorial requirements to Congress and other concerned agencies, particularly on changes in its controlling interest.

He expressed displeasure at SMNI’s alleged continuing dissemination of fake news on YouTube, skirting the suspension order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on its free-air broadcast.

“That is the problem here, the way by which Swara Sug goes about their business. It really shows impunity perhaps? Culture of impunity, culture of walang pakialam (disregard). Anything goes,” Gutierrez added.

“They are skirting the NTC [order]. They [feel] they have no more obligations because they are not on-air. They are focusing on YouTube but yet they still go about doing the same things,” Gutierrez stressed.

READ MORE: House panel subpoenas Quiboloy after repeated snub of hearings

Kabataan party list Rep. Raoul Manuel showed a short video of SMNI talent Jeffrey Celis saying in a social media broadcast last month: “Is President Marcos Jr. cavorting and supporting itong illegal use of power ng NTC at MTRCB (Movie and Television Review and Classification Board) at pati na po ang pangingialam at abuso sa poder ng kanyang pinsan na kasabwat ngayon ng CPP-NPA-NDF from Congress?”

Quiboloy’s legal battles

Celis was apparently expressing his displeasure over the orders of the broadcast regulatory bodies suspending SMNI’s free-TV operations, and referred to Speaker Martin Romualdez, the President’s first cousin.

The House probe was triggered by the claims of SMNI’s hosts that Romualdez spent P1.8 billion in just a year for his travels, which was later proven to be false.

Quiboloy’s legal battles

In December last year, the MTRCB issued 14-day preventive suspension orders on former President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” (From the masses, for the masses) and another show, “Laban Kasama ang Bayan,” hosted by anticommunist commentators Lorraine Badoy and Celis. Both shows air on the SMNI channel.

The suspension, which took effect on Dec. 18, was due to complaints that they allegedly spread false reports, according to an MTRCB memo.

Along with its decision to suspend SMNI, the NTC also issued a “show cause order” directing the network to explain in writing why it should not be sanctioned.

The network, however, did not comply with the suspension order, prompting the NTC to issue another one on Jan. 18, 2024.

On Jan. 30, 2024, SMNI anchors and reporters went to the Supreme Court to challenge the cease-and-desist orders issued by the NTC.

Aside from SMNI’s legal battles, Quiboloy himself is facing serious cases in the Senate.

On Dec. 11, 2023, Sen. Risa Hontiveros filed Senate Resolution No. 884, directing the Senate committee on women, which she heads, to look into Quiboloy’s KOJC and his alleged involvement in several criminal activities.

The cases were large-scale human trafficking, rape, and other rights abuses allegedly committed by KOJC under the leadership of Quiboloy.

Quiboloy declined the Senate committee’s invitation to attend the proceedings. Instead, he released an audio recording belittling the investigation and dared Hontiveros to help his accusers file criminal cases against him. —WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH





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TAGS: House of Representatives, Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, quiboloy, SMNI

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