MANILA -- Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar commended the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) and Freedom of Information (FOI) for a job well done in 2018.

Andanar expressed his appreciation to PTFoMS Executive, Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, and FOI Executive Director Kris Ablan in an interview with the two officials last Tuesday in a special program, “2018: A Year in Review”, which he hosted over PCOO’s Facebook page.

Egco reported that the PTFoMS had a “fruitful and very productive year” in 2018, highlighted by the Philippines’ removal from the Reporters Without Borders’ (Reporters Sans Frontières) list of five most dangerous countries for journalists.

“For the longest time, lagi kasama tayo sa Top Five. For 2018, nawala tayo sa most dangerous or Top Five. Magandang regalo ng Duterte administration iyong pagkakaalis natin sa listahan (For the longest time, we have been in the Top Five. For 2018, we were delisted from most dangerous. Our removal was the best gift of the Duterte administration),” he said.

Egco, former president of the National Press Club, said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), another international journalism group, has also noted the Philippines’ “improved status” in the 2018 Global Impunity Index.

“These reports from international watchdogs are very welcome to the task force,” he said, adding that PTFoMS will continue to intensify its campaign to assure protection of media workers in the country by holding the Press Freedom Caravan through the country.

“Hindi tayo magkumpiyansa (We will not be complacent). This is not just a cause for celebration but this is a welcome development that inspired us to intensify this year our Press Freedom Caravan,” Egco said.

He cited the moral support the PTFoMS received from Andanar, Justice Secretary and Task Force co-chair Menardo Guevarra, and President Rodrigo Duterte.

To make sure the CPJ and RSF will get accurate information about the Philippine government’s campaign to protect the media, Egco said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has agreed to source their information from PTFoMS.

Egco said more copies of the handbook for journalists on personal security have been distributed this year, particularly to different media groups in the provinces.

“Congratulations, Joel for a very successful 2018. We hope and pray that 2019 would be very peaceful for all of us and at the same time, we will continue to work and push the reforms that President Rodrigo Duterte wanted to implement,” Andanar said.

With the accomplishments of the PTFoMS, Andanar said the first Administrative Order signed by Duterte for the creation of the task force “did not go in vain.”

“It is very clear that it (PTFoMS) strengthened the freedom of the press because of the protection extended to the media,” he said.

Banner year for FOI

Like the PTFoMS, the PCOO’s other program – Freedom of Information (FOI) – has also has another “banner year” in 2018, PCOO Assistant Secretary Kristian Ablan.

“We have a banner year for PCOO for the FOI program. The biggest increase this year was SUCs (State Universities and Colleges) because in 2017, our focus was national government agencies,” Ablan reported.

He said all the national government agencies, 102 out of 116 government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), and 103 out of 112 SUCs have complied with the FOI.

Ablan also reported that FOI has 4,157 users and has facilitated more than 7,000 requests while total FOI manual-compliant are 79.5 percent or 592 government offices.

He said the PCOO will focus on enrolling more local water districts to the FOI next year.

“Local water districts are not actually included but they want to join the FOI,” Ablan added. (PNA)