FIRING LINE: SMNI is still media under attack


By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

This week, the government targeted Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) yet again. This time, the National Telecommunication Commission slapped its mother company, Swara Sug Media Corp., with a cease and desist order on its operations.

The reason for this is SMNI’s audacity in persisting in broadcasting in provinces and getting caught! The NTC’s order is a stern rebuke related to SMNI’s non-compliance with a previous order suspending broadcast, yet it did in Region 6.

For a time now, SMNI has been suiting up as THE opposition channel when many see its obvious and unabashed pro-Duterte stance. If it hasn’t learned its lesson yet, SMNI must soon realize that being the mouthpiece of the Dutertes these days attracts the scrutiny of Congress – currently the playhouse of Speaker Martin Romualdez, who apparently is cooking up his own big plans in 2028.

It pains me that NTC’s actions set a disturbing precedent for press freedom, revealing how even reputable media can be pressured by authorities like it has thrown SMNI to a corner.

Of course, SMNI could be blamed for allowing loose cannons with political leanings and agenda do the work of journalists in its station, forsaking the tenets and values of good journalism. Now, its case has exposed the fragility of an independent and honest press.

Perhaps that is something visiting UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan can wrap her mind around while she’s here.

Is government ready for PUVMP?

The government’s unyielding pursuit of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) is not just a policy; it’s a collision course with harsh realities. Over 500 routes of public utility jeepneys (PUJs) and other PUVs face decimation, leaving drivers unemployed.

It’s clear to everyone that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) eagerness to implement consolidation lacks foresight.

That is why thousands of livelihoods hang in the balance while the promised alternatives are as elusive as government preparedness. The PUVMP has been years in planning, yet it still reeks of unpreparedness and indifference to the plight of the sector it claims to uplift.

The government’s insistence on the Feb. 1 deadline to implement the consolidation of franchises, which, in turn, phases jeepneys out of their routes, is ridiculous. The LTFRB has already admitted it has an incomplete route plan.

That means jeepneys will cease to ply hundreds of routes in favor of an ill-conceived route rationalization plan. That’s a testament to the LTFRB’s detachment. But instead of corrective measures, its mother agency, the Department of Transportation, maintains a steadfast stance, disregarding the certainty of chaos on our streets.

Meanwhile, the pace at which other actors move to resolve this conundrum is dreadfully slow. The Supreme Court and legislators must intervene to prevent this impending fiasco orchestrated by a Department of Transportation and an LTFRB that have not covered their bases.

This PUVMP has become a government blind pursuit, a flawed agenda that leaves our transportation system in disarray and our drivers in despair. It’s time for a recalibration that prioritizes people over impractical policies until reasonable funding is rolled out to make genuine modernization happen.

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