SMNI affirms Duterte’s narrative, wants ‘change’ to continue

A screenshot of the SMNI News Channel webite. (Source: SMNI News Channel website)
A screenshot of the SMNI News Channel webite. (Source: SMNI News Channel website)

In one of the aired election-related commercials of Tuesday night’s presidential debates, Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) urged viewers to choose who will “continue the change” – a chilling rendition of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “change is coming” motto in the 2016 elections.

Sama-sama po tayo tungo sa bagong bansa. Piliin ang mga magpapatuloy sa mga programang nasimulan ng administrasyon,” one of the “journalists” said.

(We are moving towards the new nation. Let us choose who will continue the programs initiated by the administration.)

SMNI is owned by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, the spiritual adviser of Duterte. The network was reported to be a conduit for disinformation directed against political activists critical of the administration.

The United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been included on its "Most Wanted" list.

A news report of the network mentioned that Quiboloy dedicates SMNI for “nation building” and programs side by side with the government.

Una nang sinabi ni Pastor Apollo na nakalaan para sa nation building ang SMNI at sa mga programang kaagapay ng gobyerno.”

(Pastor Apollo once said that SMNI is meant for nation building and programs with the government.)

Odd enough, in the same article about the network being awarded as the “Most Truthful and Honest Broadcasting Network”, it redirected the awarding body, the ASEAN Excellence Achievers Award 2021, to an article on navy officials distributing drinking water and rice to residents affected by Typhoon Odette.

A snapshot of the list of stories in the network from February 1 to 15 when the keyword “Duterte” is searched shows that nine of the 17 articles are outright stories that benefit the reputation of the president.

  • Duterte, mag i-endorso ng politikong magpapatuloy ng kanyang nasimulang programa (Duterte to endorse a politician who will continue his programs)

  • Duterte, pag-iibayuhin pa ang serbisyo publiko sa kanyang natitirang termino (Duterte to continue public services until the end of his term)

  • Pangulong Duterte, pinasalamatan sa proclamation rally ng BBM-Sara UniTeam (BBM-Sara UniTeam thanks President Duterte in proclamation rally)

  • Kampo ni Bongbong Marcos, walang nakikitang isyu kay Pangulong Duterte (Bongbong Marcos camp see no issues with President Duterte)

  • Pangulong Duterte, nananatili pa rin sa ‘very good’ ang net satisfaction rating – SWS survey (President Duterte still ‘very good’ in net satisfaction rating – SWS survey)

  • Paraan para sumigla ang agrikultura, inilatag ni VP aspirant Tito Sotto; drug war ng Duterte admin, matagumpay sa ilang aspeto (VP aspirant Tito Sotto introduces way to revitalize agriculture; Duterte’s drug war, successful in some aspects)

  • Pangulong Duterte, patuloy na nagtatrabaho habang naka-quarantine -Malacañang (President Duterte continues working while in quarantine -Malacañang)

  • Senado, hinahanapan lang ng butas si Pangulong Duterte ayon sa isang mambabatas (Senate is only looking for problems with President Duterte, according to one lawmaker)

  • Malacañang, no comment sa committee report ng Senate Blue Ribbon kay Pangulong Duterte (Malacañang no comment on the committee report of the Senate Blue Ribbon on President Duterte)

The rest of the stories are either election stories or updates from the executive department.

In July 2017, Duterte admitted paying P10 million in hiring trolls dedicated to defending him during his campaign for the last presidential elections in 2016. Interestingly enough, this was after a study from the University of Oxford was published which said that $200,000 was paid for a keyboard troll network manned by 400 to 500 people – roughly P10 million.

Mark Ernest Famatigan is a news writer who focuses on Philippine politics. He is an advocate for press freedom and regularly follows developments in the Philippine economy. The views expressed are his own.

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