Duterte committed to protect media workers, Andanar says

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 03 2017 01:07 AM

The Palace on Thursday defended the Duterte administration's efforts to solve the murder of journalists in the Philippines.

This comes after the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 10th Annual Global Impunity Index showed that the Philippines is the fifth-worst country in the world when it comes to impunity in the killing of journalists. 

The Philippine ranked fourth in the index last year.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told reporters that the index analyzed journalist murders from 2007 to 2017, and that the bulk of the cases cited in the report were mostly victims killed in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

Andanar said President Rodrigo Duterte is committed to address violence against media. 

"That is why, on October 11, 2016, he signed his first Administrative Order, AO No. 1, creating the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS), with its mandate to protect the life, liberty and security of media workers and their families," he said, adding that the PTFOMS includes "a designated team of investigators and prosecutors for the speedy probe of new cases of media killings."

Andanar said the PTFOMS counted three cases under AO No. 1.

"The PTFOMS is constantly monitoring, following up and providing legal assistance as necessary to family members of victims of media violence. With the enumerable contributions of our PTFOMS, partners in media security or member-agencies, and media observers, the Philippines jumped from number 138 in 2016 to 127 in the 2017 World Press Index released by Reporters without Borders," Andanar said.

'No convictions achieved'

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), meanwhile, said in a statement Thursday that it is determined to help end media killings in our country and the whole world and bring perpetrators to justice.

November 2 is observed worldwide as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.

"It should never be forgotten it was also in November that the worst killing of journalists in history happened in the Philippines. The murder of 32 journalists (along with 26 other civilians) on November 23, 2009 in Ampatuan, Maguindanao Province was dubbed by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the single deadliest event for journalists in the world," the NUJP said.

It added that the massacre "substantially contributed to the global advocacy to protect journalists and the freedom of the press that has led humankind to this day."

"The fact that the no one has yet been convicted nearly eight years after the massacre underscores the fact impunity reigns in this country. Despite repeated promises to bring the perpetrators to justice, the Benigno Aquino government utterly failed, with Andal Ampatuan Sr. escaping court judgement by dying before defense witnesses could even be presented. Meantime, his son, Sajid Islam Ampatuan, who was Maguindanao Governor at the time of the massacre, was granted bail by the Court of Appeals on January 2016, just in time for the election campaign where the younger Ampatuan run for Mayor of Shariff Aguak," the NUJP said.

"Impunity exists to this day under the Rodrigo Duterte government, which is not doing any better than his predecessors. In fact, he himself justified the killings of journalists that contribute to the fact journalists are still being attacked and killed," the group said. 

Broadcaster Christopher Lozada was shot dead down near his house in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur last week. 

"We note that Duterte’s Administrative Order No. 1 created the Presidential Task Force on Media Security which now tries to investigate media killings and harassments. The fact remains however that media killings and crimes against journalists are still happening, as evidenced by five media workers killed under the current government on top of murder attempts and harassment against media workers," the NUJP said.

"It is no surprise then that the Philippines ranked fifth in the world in terms of impunity on journalists killings," the statement said, noting that "no convictions have been achieved" despite the formation of a task force on media killings.

"Despite himself, we still demand that President Duterte order a stop to media killings and impunity in this country. He can start by not encouraging others to kill journalists and determinedly prosecuting those charged once and for all," the NUJP said. - with a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News