MALACAÑANG has enlisted the help of the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) in its drive to curb impunity as it named the media group as a member of the inter-agency task force against extra-judicial killings created under Administrative Order (AO) 35.
“I have formally expressed to the National Press Club our intention or invitation for them to join the [committee],” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said on Sunday over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
The Palace official made the announcement in observance of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.
“The NPC is closely coordinating with the Presidential Communications and Operations Office in getting updates and monitoring cases of harassments against journalists… the government is one with the media and other sectors in mass communications [against impunity],” Coloma said.
This is the first time that government has allowed a private media entity to be a member of an inter-agency body.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd issued AO 35 in November 2012 forming a government inter-agency committee (IAC) with representatives from the Department of Interior and Local Government/Philippine National Police (DILG/PNP); Department of Justice/National Bureau of Investigation (DOJ/NBI); Department of National Defense/Armed Forces of the Philippines (DND/AFP); Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP); Office of the Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs (OPA); and Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC). The panel is under the administrative and operational supervision of the DOJ secretary.
Dubbed as the “Superbody,” the IAC/TF AO 35 is the Aquino administration’s main body to ensure effective investigation and successful prosecution of grave human rights violations.
The NPC, which is headed by this writer, remains the largest and the oldest group of professional journalists in the country. It has at least 1,000 members.
Coloma sent an official invitation to the NPC leadership two weeks ago, informing officers that the club would, henceforth, be invited to attend and participate in the activities of ‘Task Force Administrative Order (AO) 35.’
“As confirmed by the Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the NPC will be invited to attend/participate in the activities of the committee,” Coloma said.
With the NPC appointed as a member of the IAC club’ s membership with the special task force, it is hoped that solving media killings will now be given “primary attention” by government investigators.
“There is much work to be done and while we cannot be overly optimistic, what is important is that members of the press, thru the NPC, can now work closely with the government in addressing this very vital issue,” the NPC said in a statement.
It passed a special resolution designating NPC Vice President Benny Antiporda as official representative to the IAC/TF AO-35 with director Paul Gutierrez, chairman of the Press Freedom Committee, as his alternate.
In a recent forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, Aquino vowed that the government will not stop until all cases of extra-judicial killings are solved and the perpetrators punished.
Coloma said the Aquino administration will continue to uphold press freedom and recognize the role of the media in strengthening democracy in the country.