President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is committed to protecting the independence, rights, and security of all journalists and media workers in the country, Malacañang said on Saturday.
Undersecretary Cheloy Garafil, officer in charge of the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS), made the assurance during the dialogue with various media organizations after the recent unannounced police visits to the residences of some journalists.
Garafil said Marcos puts a premium on the welfare of journalists, given their vital role in nation-building.
“Be assured that President Ferdinand R. Marcos continues to acknowledge the media as a vital pillar of our president…democracy,” she said.
“He remains committed to protecting you and recognizes the important role you play in nation-building.”
Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. initiated the dialogue between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and national media organizations.
It was attended by representatives of the National Press Club headed by Lydia Bueno; Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas chaired by Ruperto Nicdao Jr.; Presidential Task Force on Media Security under officer in charge Pericleo Solis Jr.; and the PNP Press Corps, according to a statement from the OPS.
Garafil, a journalist before becoming a lawyer, said she remains to be a member of the media “in a different capacity,” referring to her role as head of the OPS.
Under Executive Order 2 inked by Marcos on June 30, the OPS is directed to “pronounce, on behalf of the President, matters pertaining to his actions, policies, programs, official activities, and accomplishments,” as well as to “establish and maintain rapport with private media and other similar entities and stakeholders.”
Abalos invited Garafil to attend the conference with the media to address the recent controversy on the personal visits conducted by PNP officers.
Garafil, who used to write for Malaya newspaper, said the OPS is “equally concerned” about the safety and welfare of the media workers in the country.
She earlier vowed the OPS would uphold free speech and expression, as she acknowledged the Philippine press’ crucial role in strengthening Philippine democracy.
The police visits were meant to check on the safety of media members, in the wake of the murder of veteran broadcast commentator Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa.
“Indeed, there was something wrong with the procedure. The intention was good, the efforts are good, but coordination should have been done first or probably with village officials,” said Col. Jean Fajardo, PNP spokesperson, on Tuesday.
Abalos, along with other police officials, later issued an apology after journalists raised alarm and fear over the uncoordinated police visits.
He also ordered the National Capital Region Police Office to re-strategize and go through proper channels to reach out to media workers instead of going to their residences.
During the President’s Night organized by the Manila Overseas Press Club at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City on October 5, Marcos vowed to support and protect media rights under his administration, citing his willingness to lend an ear and listen to all their concerns.