MANILA – Ahead of the campaign period for the 2022 national and local elections, the government initiated a novel approach to protect media workers and journalists with the launch of the Media Security Vanguards (MSVs) of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) on Friday.
During the virtual ceremony and press conference, more than 500 Public Information Officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) all over the country, led by PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Roderick Augustus Alba, were formally designated as MSVs to protect the life, liberty, and security of all journalists and media workers in the country.
Alba will serve as chief vanguard.
PTFoMS Executive Director, Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, lauded the efforts of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and PNP to protect journalists and prevent another tragedy like the Ampatuan massacre in 2009 when 32 journalists and media workers were among the 58 killed in the Maguindanao town.
The launch of the MSVs is an important milestone in the protection of press freedom and journalists, not only in the Philippines but in the rest of the world.
“Today, we can proudly say that this government has the resolve, determination, and even the political will to acknowledge and protect the important role of every journalist and media worker in this democratic country and that is to inform, educate, inspire, and empower all our citizens,” Egco said.
He said that since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s tenure in 2016, the government has always been at the forefront of protecting and securing the welfare of journalists with the signing of Administrative Order 1, which created the PTFoMS, in October 2016, and Executive Order 2 (Freedom of Information) in July 2016 that allows full public disclosure of transactions involving public interest.
“Up to now, to the very end of President Duterte’s term, this administration will continue to protect all our media workers with the creation and deployment of PTFoMS Media Security Vanguards for this election and beyond,” Egco added.
Safeguard vs. threat, misinformation
Recognizing “journalists as harbingers of truth, information, and justice,” DILG Secretary Eduardo Año stressed in his speech that “the media need to be safeguarded against every threat of violence, discrimination, misinformation, corruption, and other forms of perils that become even more prevalent during elections.”
He added that journalists’ “sacred jobs” cannot be restrained with doubt, fear, harassment, and intimidation to tell the truth.
Based on PTFoMS’ mandate, aside from acting as media workers’ first line of defense, MSVs 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.
“Now, we can gladly look forward to a future where the press can go out there, walk and work on the ground freely – free and far from the perils that have been long attached to a journalist’s job,” Año said.
He also challenged journalists to “work closely and collaboratively with us in government, especially with the PNP Public Information Officers who have been designated as Media Security Vanguards.”
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, also the PTFoMS chair, emphasized that elections are the “the most sacred ritual in a democratic society, when every person – regardless of status, accomplishment, gender, persuasion, or station in life – is guaranteed the same voice to decide the leadership of communities and the entire country in the next three or six years.”
“But here and elsewhere, the history of elections has proved at times dangerous and turbulent. The 2009 Maguindanao Massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 persons, including candidates, political supporters, lawyers, journalists, and witnesses, reminds us that there are, and will always be, forces who will resort to intimidation and violence to subvert the free will of the electorate,” Guevarra said.
“There be no doubt: our commitment to protect and promote the security of our media personnel – especially during the coming months – will be, as always, unwavering,” he added.
PNP’s crucial role
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary and PTFoMS Co-Chair Martin Andanar said “journalists and media workers will obtain the convergence of complete protection, not only because of the physical protection provided by the MSVs but also because of the PNP’s guiding principles, such as integrity, honor, nobility of purpose, the maintenance of basic human rights, the pursuit of justice under the rule of law, the responsibilities of freedom, and the observance and performance of ethical standards.”
PNP Chief, Gen. Dionardo Carlos, said MSVs would be the advocates of the right to transparency, accountability, and information.
“We need to act in unison as we move forward together with vigor and resilience to better address this challenge and help boost the government’s campaign against political viciousness and in expediting the resolution of cases of violence against journalists,” he said.
National Press Club president Paul Gutierrez said the MSV “is a welcome development” while Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas president Herman Basbaño thanked the government “for the concern and continuing programs for the media.”
Publishers Association of the Philippines, Inc. head Nelson Santos said their group would work closely with the MSVs for the protection of media workers.
Philippine Online Broadcasters Association president Errol Dacame likewise said the creation of MSVs is a “concrete manifestation that this administration is truly mindful of the media workers’ safety” and “further reinforced our courage to do our journalism jobs free from intimidations.” (PR)