Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar has reassured the commitment of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte in providing a safe environment for media members in the country.
Andanar, along with Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) Executive Director Joel Sy Egco, made the assurance in a recent dialogue with media members in General Santos City.
The communications chief said Administrative Order No. 1 which President Rodrigo Duterte signed on Oct. 11, 2016, creating PTFoMS proves that government give priority on media security.
“The first administrative order that President Duterte signed created the PTFoMs so that the freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and freedom of speech in the Constitution will be respected and observed. That is how important media security is to the Duterte administration,” said Andanar, who also serves as PTFoMS co-chair.
The communications head has attributed the Philippines’ improvement in the 2018 Global Impunity Index to the creation of PTFoMS.
“The Philippines’ improvement in the 2018 Global Impunity Index is attributed to the creation of Presidential Task Force on Media Security or PTFoMS.”
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the country dropped second to fifth place in the ranking of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.
Andanar added that the Duterte administration is giving priority on the fast judicial conclusion of the Maguindanao massacre case.
“The Duterte administration is giving priority on the fast judicial conclusion of the Maguindanao massacre case.”
A total of 58 people, including 32 media workers, were murdered on Nov. 23, 2009 while family members and friends of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu were on their way to Sultan Kudarat to file his certificate of candidacy (COC) for governor.
Mangudadatu’s wife, Genalyn, and his two sisters were among those killed in the incident, which CPJ said was the deadliest attack on media.
Andanar said the Maguindanao massacre was a major setback for press freedom in the country.
Meanwhile, Sy Egco said the bereaved families of the massacre victims have received financial assistance which the President had promised them during last year’s remembrance of the massacre.
“What is clear now is that the bereaved families received financial aid from the part of the government,” the communications undersecretary said.
Sy Egco added that some donations were also given through private institutions.
“We need to ask whether the families received these (donations),” he said.
Both Andanar and Sy Egco graced the wreath-laying rites at the massacre site in Sitio Salman, Barangay Masalay in Ampatuan, Maguindanao recently.
Sy Egco has expressed hope that the judicial conclusion of the case will be finally reached before next year’s 10th anniversary of the incident.
He said the case is composed of 58 counts of murder, involving 188 accused, including members of the Ampatuan family, and 192 prosecution and 104 defense witnesses while 81 suspects remain at large.
Among the accused were prime suspect Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Zaldy Ampatuan and Datu Sajid Islam Amputuan. Zaldy and Sajid were allowed by the court to post bail.
Acting Prosecutor General Richard Fadullon reportedly said multiple murder cases against Datu Unsay and other accused have been submitted for promulgation last November 5.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra purportedly said the case may be decided by the first half of next year.
Sy Egco, a former journalist, said he will resign from his post if the principal accused will not be convicted.