'Media security vanguards' to protect journos vs. poll violence

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

January 21, 2022, 5:39 pm

<p><em>(Screengrab from RTVM)</em></p>

(Screengrab from RTVM)

MANILA – The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) on Friday officially launched its "media security vanguards" who will be assigned to protect journalists from threats of violence, discrimination, misinformation, and corruption ahead of the elections in May.
In his speech at the virtual launch, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año stressed that the media has a sacred duty to perform its tasks “that cannot be curbed by doubts, fear, harassment or intimidation to tell the truth to the people.’’

With the continuous election-related violent incidents, Año assured that the government is taking counter steps in guarding journalists against errant groups adding that “in the future, the press will have more freedom to work on the ground.’’

Año commended the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Presidential Task Force for Media Security “for proactively working shoulder to shoulder in assuring that our truth seekers and truth-tellers are protected and defended in the excellent fulfillment of their jobs.’’

In democratic countries like the Philippines, Año said elections constitute a crucial point in their history as it provides a platform “to amplify our voice and politics and power our restructured meaning society a better place.’’

He noted that the state must provide its citizens with the necessary information and platform to make the public make the right choices including “in the election procedures and processes during election time.’’

“Journalists are said to be the eyes and ears of everything’’ this is true before, during, and after elections,’’ Año noted.

With journalists working closely with the PNP public information offices, the DILG chief appealed to the media to help resolve the cases and incidents by drawing the attention of appropriate authorities.

“Let us work together to prevent violence and exploitation of your job and profession/ be part of our efforts to win the people’s trust as the protector of the people the PNP has done its best to fulfill their mandate,’’ he said.

As this developed, the PNP said that it will be assigning close to 2,000 policemen to serve as media security vanguards during the 2022 national elections.

PNP spokesperson, Col. Roderick Alba said the heads of the 133 PNP public information offices nationwide will serve as the focal person of a total of 1,890 police security vanguards.

Alba will be the focal person at the national level. The focal person shall directly coordinate with assigned Special Agents of the PTFoMS in expediting the investigation and resolution of cases of violence, threats, and acts of intimidation against journalists.

“Our job is to facilitate appropriate police actions on issues including media security in the 2022 elections,” he added.

Alba recognized the risk being faced by media workers, especially during the election period.

Meanwhile, PTFoMS Executive Director, Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, urged reporters and other media workers to immediately seek police assistance if they feel the need for protection.

Kapag may ganyang report, ibato niyo agad sa amin. Kami na po magre-request (If there are reports like this, send it to us and we will make a request) if we need to provide protection, security details until mag-dissipate yung threat (the threat dissipates). We will do that,” Egco said during the launch.

Egco said he understands the need for several media personalities to bring firearms for their protection.

He said they are currently in close coordination with the Commission on Election to get its nod in making media workers exempted from the prevailing election gun ban.

"The infamous massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao in November 2009 is a constant reminder that media workers are mostly vulnerable a few months before, during, and a few months after every elections," Egco said. “We will never let this happen again.”

The DILG and the PNP are members of the task force under the Office of the President. (PNA)