Pres. Duterte signs AO creating presidential task force for media protection

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an administrative order creating a presidential task force on violations of the right to life, liberty and security of members of the media.

Presidential Communications Operations (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar said President Duterte signed last Oct. 11 Administrative Order No. 01, entitled the Presidential Task Force on Violence against Media Workers.

”The reason why the President wanted this administrative order is because he cares for the media and he believes in the freedom of the press,” Andanar said in a press briefing.

He said the creation of the presidential task force was announced two weeks before President Duterte’s inauguration last June 30.

He said the 1987 Constitution, particularly Article III, Section 18 (1), provides that “no person shall be detained solely by reason of his political beliefs and aspirations”.

Andanar said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) noted that the safety of journalists and the prosecution and punishment of those who kill members of the media are essential to preserve the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

The UNESCO revealed that on average, one journalist is killed every week around the world while the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that the Philippines ranks third in the world in terms of journalists killed in the line of duty.

”The continuing attack on media workers is not only erosive of press freedom and free expression but also impedes the flow of information in a community,” read the AO.

The first AO signed by the President noted that “murders and violent incidents against journalists create an impression of a culture of impunity”.

It was also noted that most of the violations against the media remain uninvestigated and unresolved, “with the perpetrators unidentified or unprosecuted, giving rise to graver impressions of impunity and the commission of more violent crimes”.

Under the AO, the Duterte administration declares as a matter of policy that all of the forms of political violence and abuses of power, whether by agents or elements of the State or of non-State forces against the members of the so-called Fourth Estate must stop.

Andanar said the Presidential Task Force will be chaired by the secretary of the Department of Justice and co-chaired by the PCO secretary, while members include the secretaries of Interior and Local Government, and National Defense; Solicitor General; Presidential Human Rights Committee head; Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff; Philippine National Police (PNP) director general; and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director.

The Task Force shall invite as observers the Commission on Human Rights, Ombudsman, National Press Club, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, Publishers Association of the Philippines, Inc., and Philippine Press Institute.

Andanar said the Task Force shall conduct an inventory of all cases of violence against media workers who are engaged, whether as a principal occupation or not, in media practice, including print, Internet, radio broadcast or commentaries and television.

After conducting the inventory, the Presidential Task Force shall prioritize the unsolved cases, particularly the high-profile cases during more recent years.

One of the country’s high-profile cases is the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre where 58 people, including 32 media practitioners, were killed and buried in a mass grave in the town of Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

The Task Force shall submit a report to President Duterte after six months of operations.

The new administrative order supersedes AO No. 35 signed by former president Benigno Aquino III in 2012, creating an Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings of media workers. Jelly Musico/