Seeing red flags in the network and finding conflicts within their schedules, most presidential candidates for the 2022 elections are snubbing the invite of Apollo Quiboloy-owned SMNI News for a presidential debate.
This was their decision save for the presidential frontrunner and Apollo Quiboloy-endorsed Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, who has been avoiding presidential forums for reasons he might be cornered by other candidates.
Vice President Leni Robredo, Senators Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao, and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno have declined to attend the SMNI debate, which is scheduled for broadcast on Tuesday, February 15.
“I am compelled to decline the invitation of SMNI, which is owned by Apollo Quibuloy, who, according to the US government, has molested and abused children. I cannot, in good conscience, be part of any activity organized by a man wanted for detestable crimes and who unconscionably used the name of the Lord in vain for religious scams,” Pacquiao said in a statement.
Lacson, meanwhile, said in a tweet that it was only in accordance with “common sense” that they would decline SMNI’s invite, as Quiboloy has openly endorsed Marcos and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
Robredo will miss the SMNI event for Panay Island, while Moreno will be in Samar.
Partido Lakas ng Masa presidential candidate Leody de Guzman will be attending the debate, according to his campaign team. This was despite SMNI being notorious for red-tagging progressive candidates and spreading disinformation in support of Quiboloy and his allies.
In a statement, De Guzman said he still decided to attend so he could “share the platform to all voters, including those who mock the bid of a labor leader for the presidency.”
“They need to hear all sides so that they can decide better in May,” De Guzman said.
While SMNI fashions itself as an impartial news organization, it hardly abides by any journalistic standards.
It is the official broadcasting arm of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, which is led by controversial televangelist Quiboloy. And it has been used by Quiboloy to show his support for Duterte and his government, using its airwaves to repeat the government’s false narratives against its critics.
Quiboloy himself has long been mired in scandals, having been indicted for sex trafficking, landing him on the most wanted list of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. He has used SMNI to sanitize his image, backed by his followers who reject the reporting of the mainstream press.