(File photo)

MANILA – The designation of police personnel as focal persons for media workers who need security assistance is timely and relevant, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Thursday.

PNP spokesperson, Col. Roderick Alba, made the remark after the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) designated officers of the PNP as media security focal persons in each province and city nationwide to provide a mantle of protection for members of the media who may face threats or intimidation in the course of the 2022 elections.

“The PNP finds it timely and relevant to designate focal persons purposely for media security, ayon na rin sa kautusan ng DILG (based on the order of DILG). Our PNP Chief (Gen. Dionardo Carlos) has high regard sa trabaho (job) and the sacrifices of our media partners. The job will be more challenging sa pagko-cover ng (to cover) election. Sila ang magiging takbuhan ng ating (these are the person to go of our) media practitioners kung may mga (if there is) threat or intimidation that relates to the performance of their profession,” Alba said in a message sent to reporters when sought for a comment.

“In other words, these focal personnel will serve as the quick response component sa pagtugon sa mga ganitong insidente. We condemn any form of violence, that definitely includes violence against media but in the meantime, we will wait for the official guidelines from the top PNP Leadership,” he added.

Speaking for the DILG as a member agency of the Presidential Task Force of Media Security (PTFoMS), DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the memorandum was issued by Secretary Eduardo M. Año to Carlos upon the request of PTFoMS Executive Director Joel Sy Egco in anticipation of a possible increase in violent incidents involving media members during the election season.

"The infamous massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao in November 2009 is a constant reminder that media workers are most vulnerable a few months before, during, and a few months after every election," Malaya said in a statement.

He said that the DILG and the PTFoMS are particularly concerned over the fact that the problem of media killings and other acts of violence against members of the media are "directly related to the geopolitical environment."

"We share the views of PTFoMS Executive Director Usec. Egco, whose office has data on the prevalence of media violence during the election season. The best example of that is, of course, the Maguindanao massacre. Secretary Eduardo Año saw the wisdom in the request and as a result, he gave the directive to the PNP," Malaya pointed out.

Based on the memorandum, the PNP is directed to designate a focal person for media security who will be the first to receive information and respond to any threats leveled against a media worker and shall also directly coordinate with assigned Special Agents (SAs) of the PTFoMS and assist the Task Force in expediting the resolution of cases of violence against journalists.

Año expressed optimism that the presence of Police Focal Persons for Media Security will be an effective deterrent or strategy for a quick response measure to protect journalists at the local level.

“We are one with the PTFoMS in providing security and other protective measures for media workers. They deserve to be shielded from every form of harm that they might be exposed to in the line of duty particularly during elections,” the DILG chief said, adding that “the 4th Estate is an integral part of our democracy and government’s partner for a more peaceful, honest and orderly polls.”

He explained that the DILG, as well as all the other member agencies of the Task Force such as the PNP, is fully supportive of the programs and projects of the PTFoMS aimed at ensuring a better and safer working environment for all media workers in the country.

“As government officials, we have a sworn duty to protect our countrymen against all forms of violence, especially journalists who are in the frontlines to provide news and information to the public. As the President has stated time and again, this government does not and will not condone any form of violence against media people," Malaya said.

Egco, meanwhile, welcomed the directive of the DILG to designate officers of the PNP as media security focal persons in each province and city nationwide.

“With the elections fast approaching, we are very grateful to DILG Secretary Eduardo Año and Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya for this welcome and important development in our quest to protect the life, liberty, and security of media workers,” Egco said in a news release on Wednesday.

He added that “this is a significant milestone to shield journalists from threats and other forms of violence throughout the archipelago.” (PNA)