Philippine regulators suspend TV programs on station linked to Duterte on-air threat

Gerard Carreon and Jeoffrey Maitem
2023.12.19
Manila
Philippine regulators suspend TV programs on station linked to Duterte on-air threat Philippine House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro speaks to reporters at the Quezon City Hall of Justice in Metro Manila about her complaint against former President Rodrigo Duterte, Dec. 4, 2023.
Gerard Carreon/BenarNews

Philippine regulators temporarily yanked off the air two television programs including one where ex-President Rodrigo Duterte allegedly made a death threat against a congresswoman, an official announced Tuesday. 

The programs, Gikan Sa Masa, Para sa Masa (From the Masses, for the Masses) and Laban Kasama and Bayan (Fight with the People), stopped airing on the Sonshine Media Network Inc. effective Monday, said Lala Sotto-Antonio, chairwoman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board. 

“Upon careful review and consideration of recent events and complaints received by the board, it was found that certain aspects of the abovementioned programs may have violated the established guidelines and standards,” Sotto-Antonio said in a statement. 

The 14-day suspension is aligned with the board’s mandate to ensure that television programs “adhere to contemporary Filipino cultural values,” she said. 

During a live broadcast of the From the Masses show in October, Duterte issued a threat against opposition Rep. France Castro. He questioned Castro’s comment that overblown “intelligence funds” were appropriated to the office of his daughter, Sara, who serves as vice president and education secretary in the Marcos administration. 

The former president urged his daughter to be straightforward with legislators and say that the funds were meant to fight the communist insurgency. 

“But your first target there, using your intelligence funds, is you, France, you communists who I want to kill,” Duterte said, according to transcripts made public. “I asked her [Sara Duterte] to tell them that, but she refused, saying, ‘You know Pa, if I did that, they might harass the PMTs [Philippine Military Training institutions].’”  

Castro, the House deputy minority leader, filed a criminal complaint against Duterte shortly after the program aired. 

The regulators informed the Sonshine network about the October broadcast and warned operators that similar incidents would be dealt with more sternly. But the station’s management apparently did not heed the warning and on Nov. 15 allegedly aired an episode of the program where guests used profanities. 

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Supporters of former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gather outside the Quezon City Hall of Justice in Metro Manila, Dec. 4, 2023. [Gerard Carreon/BenarNews]

The classification board investigated the other program, Laban Kasama ang Bayan, over a late November report based on an “unnamed source” that House Speaker Martin Romualdez had allegedly spent over 1.8 billion pesos (U.S. $32.2 million) for international travel with his entourage, Philippine media Inquirer.net reported.

The TV station is owned by Duterte’s “spiritual adviser” Apollo Quiboloy, a megachurch pastor who is wanted by the United States for using his position to allegedly abuse and rape girls as young as 11. Quiboloy, a wealthy friend and benefactor of the Dutertes, has denied those accusations. 

Accountability 

Castro, who represents the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, a special-interest group that has a seat in the House, said the board could have acted sooner.

“I am happy with this development. This is long overdue,” Castro told BenarNews. “This action by the [board] hopefully will be the first step in bringing about accountability against [the Sonshine Media Network], which has taken on a disinformation and vilification campaign.” 

The ruling is a “political statement” that sends a strong message that “grave threats are not and will never be permitted,” she said. 

Castro said Quiboloy’s TV station had a history of falsely accusing anyone who has a contrary opinion from the Dutertes of being communist rebels. 

“The authorities should look into the pattern and consistent red-tagging, terrorist-labeling for longer and more decisive measures,” she said.

The TV station and Duterte did not immediately respond to BenarNews requests for comment. 

Duterte served as president from 2016 to 2022. His tough-on-crime platform led to an anti-narcotics campaign that left as many as 8,000 suspected drug dealers and addicts dead, according to government figures. 

Rodrigo Duterte faces murder complaints before the International Criminal Court. His successor, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., faces international pressure to allow ICC prosecutors into the country. 

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