WITH the Philippines finally out of the top five worst countries for journalists, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) has vowed to do more in safeguarding press freedom and protecting the life, liberty and security of media workers in the country amid huge challenges.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who is also PTFoMS chairman, said that this achievement marks the beginning of bigger goals and greater success.
The Philippines was declared as the biggest mover in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) Global Impunity Index (GII) which was released Wednesday.
“The Philippines is the biggest mover in this year’s rankings, improving from the fifth worst country worldwide to the seventh worst… The Philippines has 11 unsolved murders in the current 10-year index period, compared with 41 for last year’s index,” the global media watchdog said.
Guevarra said that the latest GII index ranking is a clear manifestation of the country’s working justice system.
“We shall remain steadfast in our commitment to protect and promote media security by all means legally possible, relentless in the face of adversity,” Guevarra stressed.
For his part, PTFoMS Co-Chair and Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said that despite the recent accomplishments of the Task Force which have drawn international attention, the body will continue to safeguard press freedom in the Philippines.
“This is a testament to the relentless efforts of the government in protecting our media workers from threats and violence. Rest assured that the Duterte Administration will always uphold freedom of speech and expression. There is no other way to interpret this great improvement but to think that we are on the right track and, at the same time, that we should do more,” Andanar said.
The CPJ’s report for 2020 explained that the country’s remarkable jump from fifth to seventh place “reflects the fact that the November 2009 Ampatuan, Maguindanao, massacre of 58 people, including 30 journalists and two media workers, no longer falls into the 10-year time frame for calculating the index.”
“Landmark convictions late last year led CPJ to adjust the status of the Ampatuan cases to ‘partial impunity’ from ‘full impunity’ previously – meaning that they would no longer have figured into the index calculation regardless of the time frame,” CPJ added.
On December 19, 2019, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court that heard the massacre case for a full decade handed down the guilty verdict against the masterminds and their accomplices in the gruesome crime and sentenced them to long years in prison.
Meanwhile, PTFoMS Executive Director and Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, said he was immensely elated by the big improvement in the country’s ranking even as he vowed to work harder to finally remove the Philippines from the top 10 list.
“In spite of the many challenges our media workers are facing right now due to the pandemic, the country has a reason to be happy for this very welcome development. However, we will not rest until we are completely out of this list and until the day that no more media worker had to be killed in the name of his sacred duty and regardless of motive,” the Palace official said.
Egco further said PTFoMS will have to clarify the 11 unsolved cases since most of these are now undergoing trial in various courts all over the country. He vowed that the government will not let any killer of a media worker go unpunished.
Aside from addressing the unsolved media killings, Egco pointed out that the task force has so far helped hundreds of journalists from its creation in 2016, including victims of online harassment. The Presidential Task Force relentlessly pursues and keeps track of all cases of media violence in the country and provides the public up-to-date information on the progress of these cases.