Free press reigns

January 04, 2019

Can’t press freedom flourish under a strong presidency?

Yes, it can definitely do so, and the Duterte administration has clearly proven this.

We must stress, however, on the term “ strong presidency “.

But never can’t it thrive under a dictatorship.

In fact, free press has been relentless in its attack against the administration and its policies.

Press freedom was bolstered in the country under the Duterte administration, Maguindanao Governor Ismael “Toto” Mangudadatu said.

In an interview,  during the 2018 National Anti-Drug Abuse Council Performance Award on December 28, Mangudadatu said media intimidation and threats in his province have been significantly reduced since his stint as governor.

He said media freedom has been further strengthened when President Duterte assumed office in 2016.

“Nung naging Presidente si Mayor Duterte talagang nagkaroon ng malayang pamamahayag ang ating mga journo (When Mayor Duterte became President, journalists really had more freedom of expression)," Mangudadatu, whose wife and 57 other people including journalists were killed in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, said.

For his part, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Mon Cualoping said the Duterte administration, through the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), ensures the protection of media workers in the country.

"(The PTFoMS is) the first in the world. The administrative order was signed by the President and PCOO has intensified cascading and downloading the operations manual to the different regions and together with our partner agencies DOJ, DILG, PNP to make sure that the fourth estate will be strong, safe, and secured as part of our democracy," Cualoping said in an interview with PNA on the same event.

PTFoMS Executive Director Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco earlier reported that the PTFoMS had a “fruitful and very productive year” in 2018, highlighted by the Philippines’ removal from the Reporters Without Borders’ (Reporters Sans Frontières) list of five most dangerous countries for journalists.

Egco said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), another international journalism group, has also noted the Philippines’ “improved status” in the 2018 Global Impunity Index.

PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar earlier paid tribute to the victims of Maguindanao massacre.

Egco said Andanar is the first presidential media head to attend a wreath-laying ceremony for the massacre victims.

Out of the 58 victims in the Nov. 23, 2009 Maguindanao Massacre, 32 were media workers covering the filing of certificate of candidacy of Mangudadatu who was then challenging Andal ‘Unsay’ Ampatuan Jr. for the gubernatorial post.