SENATOR Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has vowed to help change the country’s image of being one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists by introducing ways to improve the country’s justice system and putting an end to a “culture of impunity.”
In a speech delivered during the 63rd founding anniversary of the National Press Club (NPC) on Thursday night, Marcos cited a report of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that showed the Philippines is third in the rankings of the world’s most dangerous places for the press, next only to Iraq and Syria.
“What is very disturbing here, aside from the sheer numbers, is the fact that we are not even in a state of conflict or war, whether internal or regional,” said Marcos, who is running for Vice President in 2016.
Marcos expressed belief that the root of the problem lies in the role of media being largely misunderstood, with many in power thinking they are untouchable, and in the weaknesses of the country’s justice system.
The CPJ report not only cited the Philippines’ weak and snail-paced justice system but also the so-called “culture of impunity,” both of which prevent adequate protection and redress for the members of the media.
“If we view it as a cultural problem, then the most effective solutions are necessarily those that will address the problem at its roots, down at the individual core components of our system that are affected and paralyzed by such a malignancy,” Marcos said.
To address the problem, he added, there should be a constant effort to educate the people and public servants on the important role of media and to remind people in power that even if they are unjustly accused they can take comfort in the “balm of a clear conscience.”
He also raised the need to speed up the entire justice system and involve the community, particularly in using new technology, to deter or solve crimes.
“I dare submit that this problem of media-directed violence is related to the problem of rising criminality in our country, and both are born of a cancerous cultural problem in that we seem to be suffering from,” Marcos said.
According to the senator, he sees the media as the special army among citizens, who, because of the nature of their profession, bring to light, speak and write those, which the general public would not have the capacity or the time to know about.
Marcos expressed a need to reform laws in such a way that the legal system will not be abused by those in power and used against members of the media, for example, through filing of libel cases against journalists.
“We have to decriminalize libel against journalists. As Vice President, if elected, and former member of the Senate and the House of Representatives, I could work with my former colleagues to build consensus and to repeal or amend the outdated libel law,” he noted.
But in decriminalizing libel, Marcos said, there is also a need to make sure that a fair and effective remedy for redress against the media is put in place.
He added that the media industry should adopt an effective-self regulation system that allows for redress for those unjustly maligned.
The senator paid tribute to 32 journalists slain in Maguindanao, murdered whistle-blower Mark Welson Chua and all other journalists who have died in the exercise of their profession.