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MMDA exec’s ‘horrible joke’ not funny for media safety minder

It may be a joke, but it’s a “horrible” one that can put the jester—an official of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA)—in hot water.

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security has taken notice of a report that an MMDA official publicly quipped about putting journalists on the government’s watch list under the controversial “Oplan Tokhang” antidrug campaign for writing stories critical of the agency.

“A reporter I have known for years brought this to my attention,” Undersecretary Joel Egco, the task force’s executive director, said in a Facebook post on Thursday. “Before I publicly call on the official and lecture him on [Administrative] Order No. 1, or ‘red flag’ him for such a horrible joke, I’d like to ask other reporters who were there to verify via PM (private message) to me. [M]y informant claimed they felt the chill.”

Egco was referring to the administrative order from Malacañang that created the task force in October last year and gave it a mandate to ensure a safe working environment for journalists by looking into complaints of media violence and harassment.

The unnamed MMDA official cited in Egco’s statement was apparently the agency’s assistant general manager for planning, Jojo Garcia.

The Inquirer and reporters from six other media companies were present on Wednesday at the MMDA conference room where, just before the start of a press briefing, Garcia wisecracked about reporters who had written “nega” or negative stories about the agency.

“Nasaan na ‘yung 45 ko? (Where’s my .45-caliber pistol?)” Garcia was heard saying. “Ipa-Tokhang na natin ‘yan (Let’s get them through Tokhang).”

Garcia made such remarks before opening a briefing on the new traffic measure approved by the Metro Manila Council, the MMDA’s policymaking arm composed of the mayors in the capital.

Given the history of media killings in the country, hearing something like that from a government official is “worse than a bomb joke,” Egco said.

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