MANILA -- The head of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) on Thursday defended Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. over his statements assailing the Court of Appeals (CA) ruling that freed former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes from detention allegedly due to lack of probable cause on the murder of journalist and environmentalist Gerry Ortega.

In a Palace briefing, PTFoMS executive director, Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco pointed out that Roque is now "the Spokesperson of Rodrigo Roa Duterte who issued Administrative Order (AO) No. 1 on October 11, 2016 for the purpose of protecting the life, liberty and security of media workers.”

“When Secretary Roque commented on the CA ruling on the murder case against Reyes, he did so within the purview of AO1 as the alter-ego of the President of the Philippines who has vowed in his first SONA that, and I quote, ‘This government does not condone violence and repression of media workers,” Egco said.

He added that AO No. 1 expressly provides that “unsolved cases of grave violation of the right to life, liberty and security of a person, are revisited, investigated and prosecuted until final determination and penal conclusion.”

Further, this mandates the creation of the PTFoMS for the purpose of “monitoring all cases of media killings and mobilizing all member agencies in order to attain justice for the family of slain journalists and media workers.”

Egco said as explicitly cited in the provisions of AO No. 1, every assistance should be provided to the families of slain journalists until its penal conclusion.

“So that’s why I’m going to reiterate that they were wrong in claiming that Secretary Roque had conflict of interest,” he said.

Egco, who was a former director and former president of the National Press Club (NPC), said Roque’s predicament is the same as his and, as such, could not also be accused of “conflict of interest.”

The head of the task force on media security on Thursday issued a statement criticizing the CA ruling as an “unwelcome development” and a “nightmare from where we all should wake up.”

He also supported Solicitor General Jose Calida in his bid to initiate an investigation to find the “stench” with regard to the CA ruling on Reyes and likewise called for the reversal of the decision.

"Mula noong namatay si Doc Gerry 2011, I was director of the NPC, and we’ve been also calling for the immediate arrest and prosecution of the suspects in this case. And when I was president of the NPC, naaresto siya (Reyes). And we even issued a very strong statement welcoming the arrest. So nasaan ang conflict of interest doon now that I’m part of government and I’m in charge of going after them?” the PTFoMS head said.

“Everything that Secretary Roque said and everything that I’m saying now all fall within the purview of AO 1. Trabaho lang naman natin ito eh. And very explicit iyong sinasabi (AO 1). We ran after them (suspects). So we provide legal assistance, we provide any assistance that we can provide to the family,” Egco said.

Reyes has been implicated in the January 2011 killing of journalist and environmentalist Gerry Ortega.

Last week, the CA ordered the Palawan Regional Trial Court to dismiss the case against Reyes and release him due to lack of evidence linking him to the journalist's death.

Roque, who represented the Ortega family while he was in private practice, said the government will "exercise all legal options to reverse this decision of the CA."

Because of his statement, the camp of Reyes accused Roque of "conflict of interest" for earlier being a party to the case. (PNA)