The country will soon be out from being regarded as one of the worst places and murderous countries for journalists.
The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), through its Executive Director Usec Joel Sy Egco believes with optimism, the recently released Global Impunity Index (GII) by US-based press freedom watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) where the country remained on its “biggest mover” status of 7th place gained in 2020.
Egco said that “for the first time, the CPJ made no country specific report on the Philippines unlike in the past when critics, he said, “feasted on mostly critical observations by CPJ.”
“This can be attributed to our engagement with international bodies such as the CPJ, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and UNESCO, to name a few.”
Egco believed “it is a sign that we are slowly getting out of the list.”
The government said it expected the 7th because the report covered a ten-year period. “You have to understand the methodology used by CPJ to best appreciate the index. Remember that the 7th rank we gained last year was cited as the ‘best mover’ for country,” the official added.
The CPJ declared the country as the “most improved” country in the world in its 2020 rankings, moving from 5th to 7th place.
“Likewise, there was no country specific report on the Philippines. This is the first time that it happened since we were included in the list more than a decade ago. There’s no other way at looking at it but a huge leap, a great improvement in our collective effort to end impunity against media workers. This is due to the fact that each and every case, whether work related or not, does not escape the eyes of PTFoMS and we hold perpetrators to account,” Egco said.
The PTFoMS was created by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016 in order to make the country a safer place for media workers after a decade of having the dubious distinction as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists by the Reporters Without Borders or RSF, another press freedom advocacy group. Finally, in 2018, the country was removed from RSF’s infamous list.
With a dedicated mandate to resolve media killings in the country, the PTFoMS recorded this year the 51st case of media killing that resulted in a guilty verdict which brings to 68 the total number of media killers that were convicted.
Far less journalists have also been killed ever since PTFoMS’ creation compared to the last two administrations that saw a slew of killings of media workers, most notably the Ampatuan Massacre that happened during the time of President Gloria Arroyo. While tragic, there were fewer media workers that were killed during the present administration, far lower than the 40 victims in the time of the presidency of the late Noynoy Aquino and 82 during President Arroyo.
Egco also said that the issue of the Global impunity index is an issue for the Supreme Court to act on. “The executive department has done its part in immediately investigating each and every killing of media worker in the country and the filing of criminal complaints against the suspects.”
He explained that most of the cases mentioned by the CPJ are already filed in court, meaning the investigative and the prosecuting arm of the government has already done its duty in investigating and apprehending the suspects in the killings.
“However, the painfully slow judicial process in our country remains the biggest hurdle while we are still in CPJ’s index. It just takes too long for our courts to try and decide criminal cases. It is up to the courts to do its part by convicting the perpetrators with urgency,” Egco said.
The official added that the PTFoMS will be asking the Supreme Court to prioritize cases involving media workers. “The way things are improving for journalists in the country since the creation of PTFoMS, we will soon be out of CPJ’s infamous index very soon.”
The Philippines is also not included in CPJ’s list of “World’s Worst Places to Be a Journalist” or “10 Most Censored Countries” in the world.