Media players, particularly from the ranks of the Publishers Association of the Philippines Inc. (PAPI), hailed the recent approval by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre of the Implementing Guidelines for Malacañang’s Administrative Order No. 1 (AO 1) 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.
The 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 headed by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and Secretary Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
Its members include the Interior and Defense secretaries, Solicitor General, Armed Forces chief of staff, Philippine National Police director general, National Bureau of Investigation director and the executive director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee.
The group’s working Secretariat is headed by Undersecretary/Executive Director Joel Egco, former president of the National Press Club (NPC) and former chief of reporters of The Manila Times who hails from Gapan City in Nueva Ecija.
Media leaders from PAPI, NPC, National Union of Journalists of 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 killings 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 lauded the DOJ’s approval 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 well-informed citizens.
They said 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.