MANILA (UPDATE) —The Sonshine Media Network International, a broadcast company owned by Davao-based Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, has been granted by the National Telecommunications Commission a broadcast frequency formerly used by ABS-CBN Corp.
This was confirmed by SMNI president Dr. Marlon Rosete to ABS-CBN News Wednesday morning.
“Yes 'yung ch43 ang binigay,” he said in the text message.
The National Telecommunications Commission also confirmed that it granted Swara Sug Media Corp, the operator of SMNI provisional authority to install, operate and maintain a digital TV broadcasting system on Jan. 5.
Channel 43 used to be assigned to Amcara Broadcasting Corp., whose legislative franchise expired in 2020. ABS-CBN used it for its TVPlus channels under a blocktime agreement with Amcara.
Quiboloy already owns UHF Channel 40 where he broadcasts news and religious programs of his religious group Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
The NTC said that before granting Swara Sug provisional authority, the agency sought policy guidance from the Department of Information and Communications Technology, legal opinion from the Department of Justice, and the concurrence of the Office of the Executive Secretary.
This comes after the NTC confirmed Tuesday that a company owned by Manny Villar has taken over broadcast frequencies formerly held by ABS-CBN Corp.
"After the technical evaluation of AMBS request for a simulcast channel, Channel 2 (the paired analog channel in Mega Manila of digital channel 16) was temporarily assigned to AMBS," the agency said.
"This temporary assignment is for simulcast purposes only, and only until the analog shut-off scheduled in 2023."
PALACE SAYS 'NO NAMES MENTIONED'
According to business website Bilyonaryo, the NTC sought the DOJ’s opinion on opening up digital TV service to new players like Advanced Media.
“The DOJ declared that the digital TV service could be opened to new players like Advanced Media because… the applicability of Memorandum Circular No. 07-12-2014 (which limits digital TV licenses only to those with analog TV operations) has been “altered by the change in factual circumstances," according to Bilyonaryo.
Bilyonaryo noted that Villar’s daughter-in-law, Emmeline Aglipay, was appointed Justice Undersecretary in 2018.
Villar’s daughter, Las Piñas Rep. Camille Villar, meanwhile voted in 2020 against granting ABS-CBN a new franchise.
The billionaire is a major supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte, and his son Mark was head of the Department of Public Works and Highways before resigning last year to run for a Senate seat in this year's elections.
Duterte's acting spokesman Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said when the NTC sought the justice department's opinion, "it was purely asking a legal question."
"There was no mention of any names, names of anyone or any private company or entity," he told CNN Philippines earlier Wednesday.
"In the same manner… when the NTC went to the OES (Office of the Executive Secretary), it was only to seek guidance on the authority to assign available and unused frequencies," continued Nograles. "Again, there was no mention of anytime or any entity whatsoever."
In July 2020, a House of Representatives panel denied ABS-CBN's application of a new franchise despite being cleared by regulatory agencies.
As a result, ABS-CBN shut down its free TV and radio operations while thousands of its employees lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duterte had said many times in public speeches that he would see to it that ABS-CBN, which he believes offended him through the non-airing of some of his pre-paid political ads as well as the airing of a critical ad in the 2016 presidential campaign, halts operations.
- with report from Chrislen Bulosan