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Under the PTFoMS vanguards, media employees are more protected.

With the debut of the Media Security Vanguards (MSVs) of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) on Friday, the government took a novel approach to protect media workers and journalists ahead of the campaign time for the 2022 national and municipal elections.

More than 500 Public Information Officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) from all over the country, led by PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Roderick Augustus Alba, was formally designated as MSVs to protect the lives, liberty, and security of all journalists and media workers in the country during the virtual ceremony and press conference.

Alba will be in charge of the vanguard.

Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, PTFoMS Executive Director, praised the efforts of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to protect journalists and prevent another tragedy like the Ampatuan massacre in Maguindanao in 2009, which killed 58 people, including 32 journalists and media workers.

The MSVs’ introduction represents a watershed moment in the preservation of press freedom and journalists, not just in the Philippines but around the world.

“Today, we can proudly state that this government has the commitment, determination, and even political will to recognize and safeguard the critical duty of every journalist and media worker in this democratic society, which is to inform, educate, inspire, and empower all of our citizens,” Egco added.

He claimed that since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, the government has been at the forefront of protecting and securing the welfare of journalists, citing the signing of Administrative Order 1, which established the PTFoMS, in October 2016, and Executive Order 2 (Freedom of Information), which allows for full public disclosure of transactions involving public interest, in July 2016.

“This administration will continue to secure all our media workers till the conclusion of President Duterte’s term, with the development and deployment of PTFoMS Media Security Vanguards for this election and beyond,” Egco stated.

Threat vs. safeguard, misinformation

“The media must be safeguarded against every threat of violence, discrimination, misinformation, corruption, and other forms of peril that become even more prevalent during elections,” DILG Secretary Eduardo Ao said in his speech, recognizing “journalists as harbingers of truth, information, and justice.”

He went on to say that journalists’ “holy jobs” of telling the truth cannot be hampered by uncertainty, fear, harassment, or intimidation.

MSVs shall immediately coordinate with assigned Special Agents of the PTFoMS in expediting the investigation and resolution of cases of violence, threats, and acts of intimidation against journalists, in accordance with the mission of the PTFoMS.

“Now we can happily look forward to a future where the press can freely go out there, stroll and work on the ground – free and far from the hazards that have long been associated with a journalist’s job,” Ao added.

He also urged the media to “cooperate and work closely with us in government, particularly with the PNP Public Information Officers who have been designated as Media Security Vanguards.”

Elections are “the most sacred ritual in a democratic society,” according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who is also the PTFoMS chair. “Every person – regardless of status, accomplishment, gender, persuasion, or station in life – is guaranteed the same voice to decide the leadership of communities and the entire country in the next three or six years.”

“However, the history of elections in our country and abroad has shown to be perilous and violent at times. “The 2009 Maguindanao Massacre, which killed 58 people, including candidates, political supporters, lawyers, journalists, and witnesses, reminds us that there are, and will always be, groups that would use intimidation and violence to subvert the electorate’s free choice,” Guevarra stated.

“Let there be no doubt: our commitment to protect and promote the security of our media professionals will be unshakable – especially in the coming months,” he continued.

The importance of the PNP

“Journalists and media workers will obtain the convergence of complete protection, not only because of the physical protection provided by the MSVs, but also because of the PNP’s guiding principles, such as integrity, honor, nobility of purpose, the maintenance of basic human rights, the pursuit of justice under the rule of law, the responsibilities of freedom, and the observation of the rule of law,” said Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary and PTFoMS Co-Chair Martin Andanar.

MSVs would be advocates for the right to transparency, accountability, and information, according to PNP Chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos.

“We must act in harmony as we move forward with vigor and resilience to better handle this challenge and assist the administration in bolstering its fight against political viciousness and accelerating the settlement of incidents of journalist assault,” he said.

The MSV “is a good development,” according to National Press Club president Paul Gutierrez, and Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas president Herman Basbao, who commended the government “for the care and continued programs for the media.”

Nelson Santos, president of the Publishers Association of the Philippines, Inc., said his organization would work closely with the MSVs to ensure the safety of media employees.

The introduction of MSVs, according to Philippine Online Broadcasters Association president Errol Dacame, is a “concrete evidence that this administration is sincerely concerned about the safety of media workers” and “further fortified our courage to conduct our journalism jobs free of intimidation.”

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