MANILA, Philippines — PDP-LABAN standard bearer and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte vowed to extend more protection to the country’s journalists, many of whom work under dangerous and even deadly conditions.
“The state must protect the media,” Duterte said, especially since the media play a vital role in a democracy.
Duterte made the statement as the National Press Club on Wednesday challenged presidential candidates to lay down their agenda on media, particularly on solving media killings in the country.
“In a democracy, the role of media is very important. In the absence of a credible opposition party, you can rely on the media,” Duterte said.
He added it is the media that bring the wrongdoings of the government to the public’s attention.
Unfortunately, it is this role that often exposes journalists to danger.
According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), 170 journalists have been killed in the country since 1986.
Duterte’s spokesperson Peter Laviña said Duterte will put up special courts and prosecution panels to handle cases of media killings.
He will also offer rewards and incentives for the immediate arrest, prosecution, and conviction of the killers.
Laviña said Duterte will give police investigators and prosecutors quick and limited time to resolve these cases.
“If not, they might as well look for another job,” he added.
Laviña said Duterte has been a staunch protector of media rights, respecting their role as the “Fourth Estate” and never questioning them when they write or say anything critical of his administration.
To date, Duterte has never filed a libel case against a journalist.
Laviña also said it was Duterte who stood behind the provincial media’s right to equal access to Presidential debates, even threatening to snub the first round in Cagayan De Oro City last Feb. 21 if the organizers limit the coverage for local media.
“If you limit the press coverage, I will not attend… That is the reason I am running for President. I want people from the provinces to be given equal treatment,” Duterte said in an interview prior to the debate.
The organizers subsequently increased local media’s coverage of the debate.
Duterte has also consistently defended journalists’ rights, even to the point of standing up to then-President Gloria Arroyo when the latter imposed Proclamation No. 1017 on Feb. 24, 2006 placing the entire country under a state of emergency following an alleged coup attempt.
The proclamation, among others, revoked on all licenses and permits to hold demonstrations and protests. It also allowed government to control public utilities, including the media.
Duterte refused to implement the proclamation and did not stop journalists in Davao City from holding a protest rally and march on March 3, 2006.
For journalists who have found themselves in trouble for doing their work, the PDP-LABAN standard bearer has always offered a helping hand.
Duterte extended legal and livelihood assistance to radio broadcaster Alex Adonis who was convicted for libel filed by former Davao Rep. Prospero Nograles.
While he was incarcerated at the Davao Prison and Penal Farm, the broadcaster’s family received monthly financial assistance from Duterte.
After his release from prison two years after, Adonis also received livelihood assistance from Duterte until he was hired by RMN Davao.
Duterte even expanded his offer, saying he was willing to help “all those who will be released from jail and would want to start anew.” PNA/northboundasia.com