PTFoMS, CHR partner to bolster Philippine media’s protection

2023 July 18

MEDIA PROTECTION. Presidential Task Force on Media Security executive director Paul Gutierrez (left) meets with Commission on Human Rights chairperson Richard Palpal-Latoc at the latter’s office in Quezon City on Tuesday (July 18, 2023). They agreed to work together to boost protection for members of the Philippine media.

MANILA – The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) has forged a partnership with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to increase the protection of members of the Philippine media.

PTFoMS executive director Paul Gutierrez and CHR chairperson Richard Palpal-Latoc met Tuesday at the latter’s office in Quezon City and agreed to share data on cases involving members of the press.

In a statement, the PTFoMS said the joint effort will enable the country to have a reliable database on violations of media rights, as well as to identify long-standing cases that need to be attended to in the interest of justice.

“The CHR also offered its assistance in the investigation of fresh cases targeting members of the Fourth Estate and in providing protection to witnesses, if necessary,” the PTFoMs said.

The CHR has its witness protection program that is separate from the Department of Justice.

Both agencies acknowledged the importance of a “free and responsible” press in society.

The PTFoMS said it would work with the CHR for awareness campaigns, emphasizing the roles played by both agencies in the promotion and protection of human rights.

A Memorandum of Agreement or Understanding will formalize the PTFoMs-CHR collaboration.

“Aside from the warm reception accorded by the CHR leadership headed by chair Palpal-Latoc, I am much more pleased on the result of our discussion,” Gutierrez said.

“Looking forward, I am sure that this strengthened cooperation between the CHR and the PTFoMS would redound to the benefit of the members of the press in particular and in general, to the country’s reputation as a nation that respects human rights in all its entirety,” he added.

Gutierrez was accompanied by PTFoMS chief of staff, lawyer Jyro Go, during his courtesy call on Palpal-Latoc, while the CHR inner staff, headed by Executive Director Jacqueline Ann de Guia, also came.

Leyte probe on police harassment

Meanwhile, the CHR has started its investigation into the alleged harassment of two police officers against three reporters in Pastrana, Leyte.

In a statement Tuesday, the CHR said it is monitoring the development of the case “simultaneous with the parallel probe.”

“CHR acknowledges the fast response of the Philippine National Police – Eastern Visayas in relieving the police couple involved and initiating an investigation into the matter,” the statement read.

The Leyte Police Provincial Office has identified the two police officers involved in a land dispute as couple and Staff Sergeants Rhea May Baleos and Ver Baleos.

The land dispute, involving a rice field that was mortgaged to Rhea in 2017, was between Moises Empillo and Anecita Nogal. The three reporters of San Juanico TV were covering the incident when the alleged harassment happened.

Rhea asked assistance from the Pastrana Municipal Police Station for assistance after an argument ensued between her and Nogal on the ownership of the rice field.

As captured in a video posted by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Rhea pushed one of the reporters who was taking videos.

“Gunshots were then heard after a few minutes, which can also be heard in the video clip. Policemen in uniform were firing the shots,” the NUJP said in a statement earlier.

Pastrana Police acting chief Police Major Darwin Dalde said there was “no truth that PNP personnel from this station fired their firearms and that the said shooting incident was just disinformation.”

The CHR said it hopes for the full accountability of those found responsible for committing the grave misconduct as a result of the PNP’s assurance of an unbiased inquiry and their commitment to not tolerate any form of abuse.

The CHR called for the protection of the reporters involved as well as efforts to ensure media safety in the area.

“We equally note the Presidential Task Force on Media Security’s immediate denouncement on the reported actions of the police. It is crucial for the government to convey unequivocal condemnation of any acts of intimidation or harassment against members of the press,” the CHR said.

“We hope that efforts are being done to further strengthen mechanisms to prevent the occurrence of media harassment and to heighten the protection of this sector.”

Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos and Ma. Teresa Montemayor (PNA)