Media players, particularly from the ranks of the Publishers Association of the Philippines Inc. (PAPI), have hailed the recent approval by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre of the Implementing Guidelines for Malacanang’s Administrative Order No. 1 (AO1) creating the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS).
Signed and issued by President Rodrigo Duterte immediately after he assumed office, the order was in response to a Human Rights Watch World Report that the Philippines remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, and that extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances remain a serious problem and rarely result in successful prosecution and punishment of perpetrators.
PTFOMS is specifically tasked to “monitor and ensure the speedy resolution of extra judicial killings, enforced or involuntary disappearances, torture and other grave violence of the rights to life, liberty and security of media workers.” The task force is chaired by the chaired by Justice Secretary Aguirre and co-chaired by PCOO Sec. Martin Andanar, Its members include the DILG and DND secretaries, Solicitor General, AFP Chief of Staff, PNP Director General, NBI Director and the Executive Director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee.
Its working Secretariat is headed by Undersecretary/Executive Director Joel Egco, former president of the National Press Club, and chief of reporters of the Manila Times who hails from Gapan City in Nueva Ecija.
Media leaders from PAPI, National Press Club, National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, Philippines Press Institute and Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, who sit as PTFOMS observers and resource persons, actively participated in the formulation of the task force’s implementing guidelines.
Through its Secretariat, PTFOMS regularly monitors and updates its inventory of media killing incidents under five categories – unsolved cases, cases under investigation, cases under preliminary investigation, cases on trial, and cases under appeal.
PAPI incumbent president Nelson Santos, former presidents Luis Arriola and Juan Dayan and former executive vice president Johnny Nunez warmly lauded the approval by Justice Secretary Aguirre of the PTFOMS implementing guidelines and said Filipinos in general eagerly await the eventual mobilization of the PTFOMS and its operating units at all levels to seriously address the continuing violence against working journalists who are merely doing their jobs to help develop a well informed citizenry.
They stress the position of UNESCO that “the safety of journalists and the prosecution and punishment of those who kill members of the media are essential to preserve the fundamental right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The Philippines is a signatory to various treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which recognize every person’s inherent right to life: that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of life, that no one shall be subjected to torture, or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and that everyone shall have the right to freedoms of opinion and expression.