DEPARTMENT of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian assured there has been no change in the government’s policy of extending the DWSD’s assistance to the members of the press, primarily thru its ‘AICS’ (assistance to individuals in crisis situation) program.
Gatchalian made this assurance last June 30, 2023, during the courtesy call by Usec. Paul M. Gutierrez, Executive Director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS). Also present during the meeting is DSWD Undersecretary for Special Concern Edu Punay.
Both Gutierrez and Punay are former active journalists prior to their appointment to their respective government positions while Gatchalian, the former mayor of Valenzuela City, succeeded journalist Erwin Tulfo to the post of DSWD secretary last January 31, 2023.
Protecting the members of the press and looking after their welfare is among the key priorities of the Marcos administration, with the PTFoMS ensuring a safe environment for all media workers while other government agencies such as the DSWD are tasked to attend to their welfare.
Punay reported that since the start of the Marcos administration in July 2022 up to June 2023, 1,025 members of the press and their families (non-media)— 689 in 2022 and 389 thus far this year– have been assisted by the DSWD’s Media Welfare Division that Punay headed.
Last May 31, 2023, after the fatal shooting of Mindoro Oriental radio blocktimer Cresenciano ‘Cris’ Bundoquin in Calapan City, both the PTFoMS and the DSWD extended cash assistance totaling P90,000 to Bundoquin’s family with the DSWD also giving additional government support in the form of educational and livelihood assistance to them as ordered by the DSWD chief.
On the other hand, the suspected gunman, Isabelo Lopez Bautista decided to surrender last June 27, 2023 based om the appeal of Gutierrez and is presently under the protective custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Prior to his courtesy call to the DSWD, Gutierrez also last June 6, 2023, struck an agreement with the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) headed by Atty. Persida Acosta, for the PAO to act as counsel for members of the press facing libel charges anywhere in the country.