MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has signed administrative order number one, creating a presidential task force that will look into media killings, Palace officials announced Thursday.
The task force was formed to put an end to "all forms of political violence and abuses of powers against members of the fourth estate" as the Philippines continues to rank high in the "most dangerous places for journalists" around the world, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said.
The task force shall conduct an inventory of cases of media killings within 30 days, including unsolved cases, cases under investigation, cases under preliminary investigation, cases under trial, and cases under appeal, Andanar said.
Aside from listing down existing cases, the task force is expected to "monitor and if needed, provide assistance" to members of the media who are covering "areas under military operations, armed conflict".
Despite the Palace's commitment to "protect the life, liberty and security" of journalists, no clear guideline were given on how the task force will deal with online threats against the media.
"If you're threatened anywhere, online or on the ground, it's still a threat... You can report it to us," Andanar told Palace reporters.
Under the AO, the task force will be chaired by the secretaries of Justice and Communications, while heads of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of National Defense (DND), Office of the Solicitor General, Presidential Human Rights Committee, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will serve as members.
The Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Ombudsman, the National Press Club, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, the Publishers Association of the Philippines, and the Philippine Press Insititute will be invited as observers and resource persons, Andanar said.
In September, Duterte urged journalists to criticize him if he is doing something wrong in his job, after a not-so-good relationship with the press during the start of his term.
"Do not hesitate to attack me, criticize me, if I do wrong in my job," Duterte had said, after being asked if he is angry at journalists.
Duterte previously accused the media of "spinning stories several times over," or allegedly leaving out relevant facts and telling lies to crucify him.