LEGAZPI CITY, Albay (PIA) –- The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) is hell-bent on pushing for the passage of a proposed law that seeks to provide media workers more protection and benefits in the 19th Congress.
The proposed Media Workers Welfare Act was approved in the House of Representatives in January 2021 but it languished in the Senate until it went on recess for the just-concluded May 9 national and local elections.
In an interview at Ugnayan sa Bicol on Thursday, PTFoMS Chief of Staff Pericleo Solis said the successor of the Duterte administration may certify it as priority bill as the bill will provide additional benefits to the media workers in terms of health insurance, employment regularization, and stabilized salary rate.
This is alongside the mandates of PTFoMS which are to safeguard press freedom and to protect the life, liberty, and security of journalists in the country, he said.
Atty. Solis hopes that the President in waiting will strengthen and even empower the task force which is the first to be done in the country and is being recognized by other nations.
The PTFoMS was the first administrative order created by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016. It is an inter-agency task force composed of law enforcement agencies such as the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, and Presidential Communication and Operations Office.
Solis recalled that before the Duterte regime, there was extensive violence against the media.
"The international community negatively points this out in a matter of upholding freedom of the press, expression, or of speech as there were horrible media killings ever since 1986, before the term of the President. One of which is the worst election-related brutality among news reporters, Ampatuan Massacre," he said.
The task force also recorded a total of 31 deaths of media workers. The PTFoMS chief of staff said most of these killings are nonwork-related and about 26 cases were filed in the prosecution service of the Department of Justice and have been fully investigated.
More changes, and the Llana, Bercasio cases
Through the PTFoMs, media workers under the Duterte administration secured a direct communication line from the Office of the President.
"We assure our friends in the media - reporters, broadcasters, journalists, etc - can rely on us and receive real-time action from us. I you feel and think that you are in danger, please call us right away," the lawyer said.
He added that there was a lesser number of media cases throughout the implementation of the task force in the last six years.
On the other hand, Solis said that although the suspects in the killing of Joey Llana in Albay province in 2018 remain at large, the PNP is doing everything to arrest the perpetrators.
As to the execution of Jobert Bercasio in Sorsogon province, he said the police already filed criminal charges against the suspects. But due to some circumstances during the investigation, the prosecutor dismissed the case.
"However, we are looking for ways to make the investigation to this case so justice will prevail," he added. (PIA5).