PTFoMS Executive Director Joel M. Sy Egco (File photo)

MANILA – As the frontline government agency dedicated to protect media workers, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) through its Executive Director, Undersecretary Joel M. Sy Egco, thanked the men and women of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for their invaluable contribution to the peaceful national and local elections and for ensuring the safety of journalists.

“I am very happy to say that no journalist or broadcaster was harmed during the elections, a testament to the government’s continued vigilance in providing a safe environment for media workers through the task force,” Egco said in a news release on Wednesday.

“I am very grateful for the tireless efforts of the PNP, especially the Media Security Vanguards (MSV) headed by PBGen Roderick Augustus Alba, chief of the PNP Public Information Office, for their proactive approach in protecting our media workers during this crucial time for Philippine Democracy,” Egco said.

Alba, meanwhile, said the PNP is playing an ever increasing role in protecting journalists through direct and constant collaboration, coordination and cooperation with media workers under the guidance of the Office of the President through the PTFoMS, a task which he described as sacred and at the same time fulfilling.

“When Usec. Joel Egco approached me if I want to lead the MSV as Chief Vanguard, I rose and took the challenge for I know and understood the very important role of the PNP in safeguarding our very precious freedom of the press, especially during the election period,” Alba said.

Alba said based on PNP’s data, it conclusively showed that no incident of violence committed against a member of the press was recorded during election day. The PNP is one of the many law-enforcement agencies that comprise the PTFoMS.

Egco, a veteran journalist himself prior to joining the government, pointed out that elections in the country are becoming more peaceful and election-related violence is becoming rarer for a country of 110 million people, as proven by data from the PNP, and confirmed by no less than the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), all thanks to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for prioritizing peace and order.

“This is a validation of President Duterte’s commitment to safeguard our democratic institutions, including press freedom, not merely through words but concrete action,” the Palace official said.

Egco called on all journalists, as vanguards of democracy, “to be the instrument of peace and unity for our country by urging all Filipinos to respect the will of the majority.”

“Although this might sound cliché but the people have truly spoken through the power of their votes, and we, as journalists, have the sacred responsibility, to tell the truth and not fan the flames of discord or discontent,” Egco said.

The PTFoMS was created by Duterte in 2016 as a task force directly under his office in order to safeguard and protect journalists from threats and violence.

Far less journalists have been killed 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 Arroyo in 2009. It was only in 2019 that the masterminds and perpetrators were finally convicted for the crime through the political will of Duterte.

In the recent 2021-2022 “World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development Global Report” released by UNESCO, it highlighted the Philippines as among a very few countries in the world that have undertaken “good practices and positive measures” in the safety of journalists.

The UNESCO report also cited the establishment by the Duterte administration of “a special task force for the safety of journalists,” now being copied in other parts of the world. (PR)