‘Guarded optimism’ meets task force created to ensure journalists’ safety
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines welcomes with guarded optimism President Duterte’s signing of Administrative Order No. 01 (AO) which creates the “Presidential Task Force on Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of the Members of the Media.”
“Optimism” because it signals the administration’s recognition of the continuing existence of threats to the free press and the right to free expression and to those who toil to deliver information to the people. And because the AO also shows an intention on the part of the administration to ensure that these freedoms are protected and the culture of impunity, with which members of the Fourth Estate have been rendered vulnerable to and easy targets of violence, be brought to an end.
“Guarded” because similar task forces were created by past administrations, and each of these was a failure with nothing to show but the growing toll of the silenced; and also because this administration, like those before it, has shown a penchant for blaming the media’s foibles for the killings—with some officials going as far as to insinuate sinister motives and even maliciously sowing false information to stoke people’s anger against journalists and their profession.
Nevertheless, we hope that the task force lives up to its name. For this purpose, we offer our sincere cooperation and call the attention of Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, co-chair of the task force, to our pending requests for government to address with urgency the harassment and threats directed against our colleagues, freelance journalist Gretchen Malalad, Al Jazeera’s Jamela Alindogan-Caudron and Reuters’ Manny Mogato and Karen Lema. These requests Secretary Andanar has yet to respond to.
We also submit to the task force, for immediate investigation and action, the threat against Bombo Radyo General Santos reporters Luna Bernard Bacalanmo and Edna Mendoza. These threats were allegedly made by the Polomolok chief of police, Chief Inspector Giovanni Ladeo.
According to the reporters, they had sought to interview Ladeo on the alleged special treatment accorded to two barangay chairs—Juner Magbanua of Koronadal proper and Vicente Yungco Jr. of poblacion Polomolok—from whom firearms, grenades and ammunition were reportedly seized. But instead of answering their questions, Ladeo angry when his superiors sought an explanation from him after the station brought the matter to the attention of PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa and fired his 9-mm service pistol, and even challenged the reporters to a duel.
Bombo Radyo General Santos says Ladeo’s superiors have taken action on the incident. Nevertheless, we urge the task force to conduct its own probe into the incident and ensure that Bacalanmo, Mendoza and all the other personnel of the radio station are protected, and that such an incident is not repeated; and to see to it that appropriate sanctions are imposed on Ladeo should he be found to have abused his authority and indeed threatened the reporters.
We wish the task force well and sincerely hope for its success.
DABET PANELO, secretary general, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, [email protected]
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