MANILA – It’s only a matter of time before the Philippines is removed from the annual Global Impunity Index of press freedom watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) said Thursday.
In a press statement, the PTFoMS expressed confidence that the efforts of the Marcos administration to safeguard media freedom would come to fruition.
“It is expected that due to the unwavering commitment of President Marcos to protect the rights and safety of journalists, it is only a matter of time before the country is removed from the said index,” the task force said.
The PTFoMS said the country has “come a long way” in protecting media rights since being dubbed as one the most dangerous countries for media workers, following the killing of 58 people, including 32 journalists, in Maguindanao province on Nov. 23, 2009.
This incident caused the Philippines to go up to 2nd place in the CPJ’s Global Impunity Index.
“By serving justice to those responsible for this heinous crime, the Philippines has come a long way in protecting media workers and went down by five notches in CPJ’s infamous index to its much better present ranking of 7th place,” the task force said.
On Dec. 19, 2019, the Ampatuan clan including Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan were convicted by Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City of 57 counts of murder along with 27 other co-accused as principals, sentencing them to reclusion perpetua without parole, while 15 others were sentenced to 6–10 years for being accessories.
To date, a total of 45 accused have been convicted for the massacre.
The PTFoMS also thanked the House of Representatives for passing on the third and final reading House Bill No. 454 or the Media Workers Welfare Act (MWWA) which seeks to grant media workers hazard pay, a living wage, safety equipment, security of employment plus additional insurance and hospitalization benefits.
It expressed confidence that the Senate will also approve the bill in record time.
Percy Lapid case
Meanwhile, the PTFoMS also cited the case of slain broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa as a demonstration of President Marcos’ resolve to protect the life, rights, safety and liberty of all journalists and media workers.
“Marcos’ commitment to press freedom is best exemplified by the tremendous importance being given by his administration in finding those responsible for the killing of broadcaster Percy Lapid,” the task force said.
To date, eight accused have been arrested by the police and are undergoing trial, while one suspect has been killed while resisting arrest.
The Philippine National Police is also conducting manhunt operations for the arrest of the remaining suspects.
Pursuant to Administrative Order No. 1 (2016), the PTFoMS is chaired by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and Office of the Press Secretary Officer-In-Charge (OIC) Cheloy Garafil.
The PTFoMS Secretariat is headed by lawyer Pericleo Solis Jr. as OIC. (PNA)