PTFoMS launches its Media Security Vanguard program

PTFoMS Executive Director Undersecretary Jose Joel Sy Egco (PNA photo)

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) has launched its Media Security Vanguards (MSV) program which aims to protect journalists from threats of violence, discrimination, misinformation, and corruption ahead of the elections in May this year.

The program was launched Friday in virtual rites and press conference. Formally designated as MSV operatives are more than 500 Philippine National Police (PNP) public information officers nationwide led by PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Roderick Augustus Alba who named Chief Vanguard.

During the rites, PTFoMS Executive Director, Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, lauded the efforts of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and PNP in protecting journalists to prevent another tragedy like the Ampatuan massacre in 2009 when 32 journalists and media workers were among the 58 killed in Maguindanao.

The launch of the MSVs is an important milestone in the protection of press freedom and journalists, not only in the Philippines but in the rest of the world.

Egco said the acknowledges the important role of journalists and media workers play in a democratic society, particularly their commitment to “inform, educate, inspire, and empower all our citizens.”

He said that since the incumbent administration has always been in the forefront of protecting and securing the welfare of media players since 2016  with the signing of Administrative Order 1, which created the PTFoMS, in October 2016, and Executive Order 2 (Freedom of Information) in July 2016 that allows full public disclosure of transactions involving public interest.

In the same event, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año stressed that “media need to be safeguarded against every threat of violence, discrimination, misinformation, corruption, and other forms of perils that become even more prevalent during elections.”

Año said the “sacred jobs” of journalists to tell the truth “cannot be restrained by fear, harassment, and intimidation.” Based on the PTFoMS’ mandate, aside from acting as media workers’ first line of defense, MSVs shall directly coordinate with assigned PTFoMS Special Agents to expedite the investigation and resolution of cases of violence, threats, and acts of intimidation against journalists.

“Now, we can gladly look forward to a future where the press can go out there, walk and work on the ground freely – free and far from the perils that have been long attached to a journalist’s job,” Año said.

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

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, also the PTFoMS chair, stressed that elections are “the most sacred rituals in a democratic society, when 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.”

“But here and elsewhere, the history of elections has proved at times dangerous and turbulent. The 2009 Maguindanao Massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 persons, including candidates, political supporters, lawyers, journalists, and witnesses, reminds us that there are, and will always be, forces who will resort to intimidation and violence to subvert the free will of the electorate,” Guevarra said.

He assured that “our commitment to protect and promote the security of our media personnel – especially during the coming months – will be, as always, unwavering.”

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

National Press Club president Paul Gutierrez said, for his part, said the MSV “is a welcome development” while Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas president Herman Basbaño thanked the government “for the concern and continuing programs for the media.”

Publishers Association of the Philippines, Inc. head Nelson Santos said their group would work closely with the MSVs for the protection of media workers.

Philippine Online Broadcasters Association president Errol Dacame likewise said the creation of MSVs is a “concrete manifestation that this administration is truly mindful of the media workers’ safety” and “further reinforced our courage to do our journalism jobs free from intimidations.”