The National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC), the largest and one of the most firmly established organizations of professional media practitioners in the country, on Sunday said the media under the Duterte administration is a lot safer now and that the government gives premium to transparency and accountability.
Paul Gutierrez, president of NPC and reporter of People’s Journal, cited the Freedom of Information (FOI) and the creation of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) as two major moves that ensure the safety of journalists and equip them with a tool to give that easy and quick access to government documents.
“While government and media are naturally at loggerheads over certain issues with the NPC not hesitating to throw in its criticisms when needed, the Duterte administration should still be credited for making good on its campaign promise to promote transparency and accountability in government,” he said, referring to Administrative Order 1 that created the PTFoMS and Executive Order 2 that created the FOI law.
“Further giving credit where credit is due, we also recognize the ‘behind the scene’ efforts of the PCOO [Presidential Communications Operations Office] Secretary [Martin Andanar] in convincing not only President Rodrigo Duterte but also, the entire Cabinet, to support and promote these two decisions,” Gutierrez added.
He said these measures have not only help but also “strengthen our democracy and the rule of law, but more important, help restore our people’s trust in government.”
“Thus, these early twin decisions by the Duterte administration can also be described in two words: commitment and sincerity,” according to Gutierrez.
Armed with the FOI law, journalists and any Filipino can now request official records by going straight to concerned agencies in the executive branch.
As a former broadcast journalist, Gutierrez said, Andanar knows the job of media people and how crucial official records are in putting meat to a story and analyze their implications.
Duterte, through Memorandum Order 10, assigned to the office of Andanar the implementation of the FOI program and the PTFoMS.
“He is the natural choice for the job… Thru his sincerity, commitment, and unflagging energy, it can be expected that the resistance being shown by some lower-ranking units in the bureaucracy in complying with the FOI [a new program to promote and uphold transparency in government]would soon be overcome,” the NPC president said.
Duterte, even during the 2016 presidential campaign, vowed to build a conducive environment for working media people.
He declared in his first State Of The Nation Address (SONA) that “this government does not condone violence and repression of media.”
“Thru the PTFoMS, both government and its media partners are now able to work closely together and act on the first signs of threats against members of the press and other media workers; this joint effort now gives a protective cover to journalists in distress and saving them from further harm,” Gutierrez said.
The NPC is one of the country’s biggest media groups that sits as an “observer and resource person” in the task force, along with the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng PIlipinas, Philippine Press Institute, Publishers Association of the Philippines and Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.
Gutierrez noted that there has been a marked decrease on threats and violence against Filipino journalists as shown in the country’s improved ranking in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontiers).
The report cited the impressive uphill climb of 11 places, from 138th in 2016 to 127th this year. This marked improvement, according to RSF data, is the fourth highest among the countries surveyed.
Gutierrez, however, said there is still much to be done.
“Slaying the ‘Beast of Impunity’ that has been the bane of our society for so long now is never, and will never be, an easy task; the challenges ahead must embolden all stakeholders, particularly government, to do much more. For we can only rest easy when there is far greater transparency in all branches of government and when these debilitating threats and environment of fear that have long gripped media practitioners nationwide have been totally expunged,” he said.
JAIME R. PILAPIL