MANILA (UPDATE) — President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said his administration will "support and protect the rights of the media" as he acknowledged its role in people empowerment and the nation's development.
The chief executive issued the statement at the "President's Night" event at a Pasay City hotel organized by the Manila Overseas Press Club.
It also comes days after the killing of radio commentator Percival Mabasa, also known as Percy Lapid, in Las Piñas City on Monday. The incident was not mentioned in Marcos' speech.
"Under my lead, we will support and protect the rights of the media as they efficiently perform their duty," Marcos said.
“Whatever difficulties we may encounter from this point on, the government will always be ready to lend an ear and to listen to your concerns and to answer all that you may want to know," he also said.
Marcos also said he shares the MOPC’s conviction in “the importance of upholding the universal right of free speech and press freedom as well as giving and receiving accurate information,” as he vowed that he will remain open to the media in articulating the government’s plans.
"As I share your club's conviction in the importance of upholding the universal right of free speech and press freedom, as well as giving and receiving accurate information, I'm committed to remain open with you, constantly communicating our progress as we move forward," he added.
Marcos said the country counts on the media both in getting information and increasing awareness on issues affecting the Philippines and the world.
"For all our vision and aspiration, I underscore the crucial role of the press in building an active citizen, one that contributes to development of our society," he said.
"Your proactive participation in keeping a well-informed citizenry forms part of our collective goal to empower Filipinos and establish a more robust Philippines," he added.
Marcos urged the press to "effectively communicate" to the public the government's development efforts, noting that this is a partnership that "we must continue to strengthen."
"This is the partnership that we must --- another partnership that we must continue to strengthen. It is the job of our media practitioners to not only analyze, to not only make --- give their opinion but to also inform and let our people know what the government is doing and how it will help their lives and how they can be part of that progress, that process of progress that we have started," he said.
The appeal was made amid the vacancy at the top post of the President's Office of the Press Secretary, following the resignation on Tuesday of lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles.
Marcos did not speak about his next Press Secretary, even as on the stage with him during the event was former Press Secretary Mike Toledo, who, earlier in the day, expressed willingness to return to the post he held during the Estrada administration if "given an opportunity to serve" again.
Toledo, who is MOPC's Vice President, had declined to confirm whether or not he was offered the Press Secretary post.
Marcos sought to assure the media that his government would "always be ready to lend an ear," listen to concerns, and answer "all that you may want to know."
"We will not be your leader. But we will be your partner as we work together to see the full promise of the Filipino nation fulfilled in the days and in the years ahead," he said.
A journalists' group had said that Lapid, who served as commentator at DWIZ 882 KHZ and DWBL 1242 AM, is the second member of the press to have been killed under the current administration.
Metro Manila police had said that it is "highly probable" that the slay of Lapid was related to his work.
Malacanang said it hopes to get within a week the investigation report on the killing of Lapid.
"The Office of the President, particularly PBBM, is concerned of what had happened to Percy Lapid," Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Hubert Guevara told reporters on Tuesday.
During the imposition of Martial Law in the country from 1972 by then President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., father of the incumbent chief executive, the press was controlled by the government and some news personalities and media practitioners were imprisoned.
- with a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News