Duterte forms presidential task force vs media killings
President Rodrigo Duterte has signed his first administrative order (AO) creating a Presidential Task Force against media killings, a Palace executive said on Thursday.
“President Duterte has signed administrative order number 1 creating the Presidential Task Force on the violation of the right to life, liberty and security of members of the media,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told reporters in a press briefing.
Andanar said Duterte “cares” for the media and believes in press freedom.
“The reason why the President wanted this Admin Order or Administrative Order No. 1 is because he cares for you, for us. And he believes in freedom of the press,” he said.
Andanar said Duterte signed the AO last Tuesday.
Section 2 of the order said the task force “shall have the mandate of ensuring a safe environment for Media Workers.”
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II will served as the chairperson of the task force. Its members will include Andanar as co-chairperson, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Solicitor General Jose Calida, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya, Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa, National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran and the executive director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee.
The AO stated that the task force would invite the chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Ombudsman as observers and resource persons.
Heads of media organizations, which include the National Press Club (NPC), the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP), Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP), Publishers Association of the Philippines (PAPI) and Philippine Press Institute (PPI), would also be invited.
Inventory of cases, speedy trial
In its first 30 days, the newly formed task force would make an inventory of all cases of violence against media workers commited by state and non-state forces.
After the inventory, the task force would look into unsolved cases but the order provided that high-profile cases would be given “greater priority.”
Andanar said the unresolved Maguindanao massacre, which killed 58 people including 32 journalists, would also be looked into.
The order also stated that the task force would designate a special team of investigators and prosecutors for the speedy probe of new cases on media killings.
It also provided that the task force should facilitate the protection of witnesses on media killings in accordance with Republic Act No. 6981 or the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act.
Andanar said that while online threats were not stated in the order, these would be included in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the AO.
“I have not seen it here, but if it—naturally if you are threatened anywhere, be that online or on the ground, it’s still a threat, and it still violates your security and your right to have good life, liberty and the security as mentioned in this administrative order,” he said.
“We can assist the media kung mayroong mga (if there are) threats. So, puwede po kayong magsumbong, ito ay pag-uusapan po ng iba’t ibang ahensiya na kasama dito, at iyong mga members or iyong mga private members ng Presidential Task Force, kasama na po diyan iyong KBP, iyong PAPI, and iyong NUJP (You can report it, different agencies would discuss it and it would be composed of private members of Presidential Task Force including KBP, PAPI and NUJP),” he added.
The order said the task force “shall receive, process and take necessary action upon complaints of abuse and other acts of violence filed by media workers in coordination with the DOJ (Department of Justice) and in accordance with existing laws, rules and regulations.”
Report to the President
The order also mandated the after six months, the task force “shall submit a report to the President, detailing the inventory of cases according to category, and describing the accomplishments and progress made for each case, or the problems and obstacles encountered, highlighting the problematic cases, with further recoomendations for any additional action that may be taken.”
Andanar was tasked as the spokesperson of the task force.
“The Secretary of the PCO (Presidential Communication Office) alone shall be authorized to make public statements on matterts concerning the activities of the Presidential Task Force,” it said.
The order said it repealed the AO 35 of former President Benigno Aquino III on the creation of Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings “only insofar as it covers the incidents of violence against media workers.”
On Nov. 22, 2012, Aquino signed AO No. 35, which created a nine-member “Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons.”
The order replaced AO No. 211, signed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in November 2007, forming Task Force Against Political Violence also known as Task Force 211.
On Aug. 1, 2006, Arroyo created the Philippine National Police Task Force Usig, a special body created to solve within 10 weeks 10 journalist and activist killings. RAM/rga
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