MANILA – The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) has expressed optimism that the Philippines will soon be out of the Global Impunity Index (GII) released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a US-based media watchdog.

This as the country remained on its "biggest mover" status of seventh place gained in 2020.

In a statement on Friday, PTFoMS executive director, Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco said that “for the first time, the CPJ made no country-specific report on the Philippines unlike in the past when critics feasted on mostly critical observations by CPJ.

"This can be attributed to our engagement with international bodies such as the CPJ, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and UNESCO, to name a few. It is a sign that we are slowly getting out of the list.” he pointed out.

Egco explained that the seventh rank was expected because the report covered a 10-year period.

“You have to understand the methodology used by CPJ to best appreciate the index. Remember that the 7th rank we gained last year was cited as the 'best mover' for the country,” he added.

It should be noted that the CPJ declared the country as the “most improved” country in the world in its 2020 rankings, moving from fifth to seventh place.

“Likewise, there was no country-specific report on the Philippines. This is the first time that it happened since we were included in the list more than a decade ago. There's no other way at looking at it but a huge leap, a great improvement in our collective effort to end impunity against media workers. This is due to the fact that each and every case, whether work-related or not, does not escape the eyes of PTFoMS and we hold perpetrators to account,” the Palace official said.

The PTFoMS was created by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016 in order to make the country a safer place for media workers after a decade of having the dubious distinction as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists by the Reporters Without Borders or RSF, another press freedom advocacy group. Finally, in 2018, the country was removed from RSF’s infamous list.

With a dedicated mandate to resolve media killings in the country, the PTFoMS recorded this year the 51st case of media killing that resulted in a guilty verdict which brings to 68 the total number of media killers that were convicted.

Fewer journalists have also been killed ever since PTFoMS’ creation compared to the last two administrations that saw a slew of killings of media workers, most notably the Ampatuan Massacre that happened during the time of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

While tragic, there were fewer media workers that were killed during the present administration, far lower than the 40 victims in the time of the presidency of the late Noynoy Aquino and 82 during President Arroyo.

Egco also said that the issue of the Global impunity index is an issue for the Supreme Court to act on.

“The executive department has done its part in immediately investigating each and every killing of a media worker in the country and the filing of criminal complaints against the suspects," said Egco.

He explained that most of the cases mentioned by the CPJ are already filed in court, meaning to say, the investigative and the prosecuting arm of the government has already done its duty in investigating and apprehending the suspects in the killings.

“However, the painfully slow judicial process in our country remains the biggest hurdle while we are still in CPJ’s index. It just takes too long for our courts to try and decide criminal cases. It is up to the courts to do its part by convicting the perpetrators with urgency,” Egco said.

Egco said that the PTFoMS will be asking the Supreme Court to prioritize cases involving media workers. “The way things are improving for journalists in the country since the creation of PTFoMS, we will soon be out of CPJ’s infamous index very soon,” he added.

The Philippines is also not included in CPJ’s list of “World’s Worst Places to Be a Journalist” or “10 Most Censored Countries” in the world. (PR)