Mothers of disappeared UP students, human rights activist file complaints vs SMNI for Palparan interview

In an administrative complaint filed today before the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), Concepcion Empeño and Erlinda Cadapan, the mothers of disappeared University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, together with Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay demanded that the broadcasting franchise of Suara Sug Media Corporation be revoked for airing the interview with retired general and convicted kidnapper Jovito Palparan in Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) News Channel.

Lawyers from the Movement Against Disinformation (MAD) led by Atty. Rico Domingo, Dean Tony La Viña, and Atty. Amy Dio assisted Empeño, Cadapan and Palabay in the said complaint.

“We are utterly appalled and disturbed that a franchise grantee and/or holder of a CPCN such as SMNI which is tasked with the responsibility of disseminating true and/or accurate information and balance programming, among others, has the temerity to make such broadcasts which are accessible to and watched by the viewing public. Because of these, its viewers and/or the public are led to biased or unreliable information, not to mention deliberate misrepresentation, to the detriment of public interest,” the complainants stated.

The complaint further read that “[b]y broadcasting the foregoing interview and segment SMNI misused the platform granted by the State or at the very least, allowed, deliberately or otherwise, others to use its facilities to propagate false news or information,” with Palparan’s interview violating provisions of Republic Act No. 11422 as well as the 2007 Broadcast Code of the Philippines.

The complaint continued that the interview violated the Commission on Elections’ Resolution No. 10730 for red-tagging Vice President Leni Robredo.

Palparan’s interview with Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy-Partosa, a spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), was aired in the “Laban Kasama Ang Bayan” program of SMNI News Channel last March 30, 2022. The channel is under Suara Sug Media Corporation — the media network owned by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, who is wanted in the United States for sex trafficking. Palabay said that SMNI, together with the NTF-ELCAC, are “now engaging in the business of valorizing criminals and human rights violators like Palparan.”

“Palparan is a convicted criminal and a notorious human rights violator — and SMNI gave him a platform to spread lies and unleash a red-tagging spree against his victims. By airing the lies in Palparan’s interview, with no less than another rabid red-tagger and serial liar like Badoy, SMNI has deliberately disseminated not only false information: red-tagging is a malicious and deadly form of disinformation. SMNI violated the terms of its broadcasting franchise by becoming a platform for lies and red-tagging, and this is sufficient ground for the NTC to revoke its franchise,” the Karapatan official asserted.

Empeño averred that “it has been almost 16 years when the military led by Palparan abducted our daughters. Did the military even give them a chance to defend themselves from their false accusations and red-tagging? Our daughters remain missing even if the courts have already convicted Palparan with undeniable evidence and irrefutable witness testimonies, yet this so-called news channel is giving this convicted kidnapper a platform to defend himself with his lies! We are enraged that a heinous criminal like Palparan is being allowed to valorize himself!”

“SMNI and the NTF-ELCAC are not only valorizing criminals and human rights violators like Palparan: they are consciously and deliberately using their network to propagate disinformation and red-tagging to justify the atrocities and abuses of the government at the expense of our daughters and other victims of human rights violations. This is a travesty of justice! A network which consciously deceives the public should have their broadcast franchise revoked! We cannot allow SMNI to further spread its harmful lies and red-tagging before the public,” Cadapan added.