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Claims about Speaker’s travel costs trigger House probe of SMNI

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House Deputy Majority Leader David Suarez of Quezon province gestures during a privilege speech on Nov. 28, 2023 as he calls for an investigation into the spread of what House officials called false claims against House Speaker Martin Romualdez.

MANILA — The House of Representatives has tasked its Committee on Legislative Franchises to investigate the spread of claims that Speaker Martin Romualdez spent over P1.8 billion in travel news, which the chamber has called “baseless” and a “blatant attempt to spread misinformation.” 

House Deputy Majority Leader David Suarez delivered a privilege speech to hit the claims that were broadcast on Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI). 

Suarez, congressman of Quezon’s 2nd District, said he also wants the panel to act on similar resolutions pending before the panel.

“Unfortunately, we live in an environment of fake news.” Suarez said

Asking aloud whether the network bothered to validate the claims, Suarez said that these were “nothing but baseless attacks, fake news that destroy the very integrity and dignity of the House of Representatives.”

House Secretary General Reginald Velasco has rejected the claims, saying in a statement that Suarez read into the record, that the claims “are not only baseless but are blatant attempt to spread misinformation and defame the Speaker’s character.”

He also said that the House Secretariat “categorically [denies] these false allegations and condemn in the strongest terms the propagation of such irresponsible and damaging news.”

The privilege speech is the second time that House officials have reacted to claims made on the network owned by televangelist Apollo Quiboloy. 

The House earlier this month passed a resolution defending its integrity over allegations of corruption made by former President Rodrigo Duterte.

PROBE BEGINS THIS WEEK

The matter was referred to the Committee on Rules for action, but before the plenary session was adjourned for the day, Assistant Majority Leader Zia Alonto Adiong said the probe should begin this week.

“I move that the Committee on Legislative Franchises in the exercise of its inherent oversight function be directed to investigate this matter immediately,” Adiong, of Lanao del Sur’s 1st District, said.

The motion was approved.

Before this, the Committee on Legislative Franchises was also in receipt of House Resolution 1428 authored by the Makabayan bloc for an investigation into Duterte’s alleged red-tagging and grave threats against House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro of ACT TEACHERS party-list.

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