Journalists on Friday trooped to the National Press Club (NPC) in Intramuros, Manila to secure licenses to own and carry firearms–a program supported by the government–to ensure their safety.
Leading the event was Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), who explained that the one-day event was a one-stop shop to secure License to Own and Possess Firearms (LTOPF) and Permit to Carry Firearms Outside Residence (PCFOR).
“Many journalists are complaining of difficulty in securing a firearm license. That’s the reason why we have this activity, a one-stop shop to apply for your LTOPF and PCFOR. One thing more, we now have a liaison officer who will help us with the Firearms and Explosive Office based in Camp Crame [in Quezon City],” Egco said.
Journalists also took the neuro-examination and drug tests right at the NPC building, aside from applying for National Bureau of Investigation clearance.
Undersecretary Marvin Gatpayat of the Presidential Communications and Operations Office said President Rodrigo Duterte is concerned about the safety of journalists.
“In fact, his very first Administrative Order 1 was the creation of PTFoMS. He values the security of the media. So far, under the Duterte administration, we have only one validated media-related killing,” said Gatpayat, referring to the December 2016 murder of Larry Que, owner of a Catanduanes-based newspaper.
Currently there are 800 registered NPC members but there are thousands more, especially in the provinces.
Most of the media killings are in the countryside.
Egco, in his six-month accomplishment report to the President last May, said the latest survey of The Press Freedom Index showed the Philippines ranked 127th, a sharp 11 notches improvement from its previous position in 2016 at 138th.
The Philippines’ latest ranking is the fourth steepest improvement among 180 countries worldwide.
The task force, Egco said, has significantly improved media workers’ security under the Duterte administration, owing largely to pro-active measures that are now in place, including the activity on Friday.
The former senior reporter of The Manila Times said journalists, in the discharge of their duties, are often faced with threats, harassment and physical assault.
Aside from Que’s murder, the task force reported eight shooting incidents, eight cases of threat, one detention, one request for continued Witness Protection Program coverage, two physical attacks, a complaint and an arrest involving journalists.
Jaime R. Pilapil