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‘Source of SMNI false news may face sanctions’

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Disciplinary action would be initiated against the source who leaked misleading information about the travel expenses of the House of Representatives if it is proven to be an employee of the Upper Chamber, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Sunday.

Sonshine Media Network International host Jeffrey Celiz made the allegation that Speaker Martin Romualdez spent P1.8 billion in travel funds in a span of one year.

Celiz, who claimed his source was a Senate employee, has apologized for his erroneous commentary.

“I would suggest that the House continue their investigation until they get to the bottom of this accusation and press for the concerned person to reveal the name of their alleged source from the Senate. Otherwise, the House can cite them in contempt,” Zubiri said.

During the House Committee on Legislative Franchises hearing on Thursday, Quezon Rep. David Suarez offered to resign immediately if SMNI can prove its allegations against Romualdez.

“If you could prove that the P1.8 billion is true, I would resign. But if I could prove that the P1.8 billion that your program stated is false, put your franchise on the line,” the House deputy majority leader said.

SMNI president Marlon Rosete and legal counsel Mark Tolentino were present during the hearing.

“Do you accept the challenge? Yes or no?” Suarez asked Tolentino during the hearing, to which the latter replied, “I cannot answer that Mr. Chair, I’m just a lawyer. That’s not part of my authority.”

Eventually, Tolentino said the network is not putting its franchise on the line over its report.

“You are saying no because you know it’s doubtful. The statement is doubtful,” Suarez said.

Suarez said failure to prove the allegation aired on SMNI’s show would constitute “a direct violation of their franchise.”

Celiz acknowledged their failure to validate the information he received from his source, whom he identified as a male employee of the Senate.

“We are very much willing to admit that, indeed, the source was wrong. In this committee hearing, we are very appreciative of the guidance provided by the data,” Celiz said.

During the hearing, House Secretary General Reginald Velasco reported that the Office of the Speaker, House Secretariat, and House members incurred a total of P39,605,123 in expenses from January to October this year.

Velasco added that of this amount, P4,347,712 was disbursed by the Office of the Speaker, while P35,257,411 was spent by the House Secretariat and other members of the chamber during their official trips.


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