Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos has called on Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Albayalde and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal to devise measures to protect journalists from potential hazards during the campaign season and election coverage for the May polls.
Marcos observed that as the elections was getting in full swing, journalists faced vulnerability to threats and harassment from individuals, especially from what she called unscrupulous politicians whose political, economic and criminal interest was being imperilled.
Citing increasing statistics of violent incidents against the members of the press, Marcos said it was high time for the security sector to include journalists in its security coverage.
Marcos predicted that attacks against the media would go up during the campaign season.
“Politicians are now doubly sensitive about their image and would go [to]extraordinary lengths to protect it,” said Marcos, a senatorial candidate in the May elections.
At least 12 journalists have been killed under the present administration, nine of them in the line of duty, a journalists’ group claimed.
During the incumbency of then President Benigno Aquino, there were 35 journalists killed from July 1, 2010 to November 2015.
The World Press Freedom Index reported and identified in April 2017 that the Philippines was one of the most dangerous countries for media.
Media killings during the Duterte administration declined as law enforcement agencies, upon the President’s directive, formulated measures to ensure safety of journalists, acknowledging the significance of press freedom.
“We recognize the difficulty of preventing attempts at silencing critical media people but the Armed Forces and the PNP could start by focusing on election hot spots. We must have a peaceful election, and keeping the press safe and secure is a paramount concern,” Marcos said.
The PNP has instituted intensified measures to reinforce its operational procedures amid the series of killings linked to the May 2019 elections.
PNP chief Oscar Albayalde strongly emphasized the fortification of its operations against gun-for-hire and private armed groups which he attributed as one of factors in election violence incidents.
Meanwhile, Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, said protecting the safety of journalists was its primary mandate.
“That has always been the call of the Presidential Task Force On Media Security whose primary mandate is to protect the life, liberty, and security of media workers. Indeed, election season sparks violence in a general sense and our records show that violence and threats against media workers spike before, during and after every poll,” Egco said.
“We continue to remind our colleagues in the media to be mindful of this, to be very vigilant and to always bear in mind that our greatest protection is our adherence to the highest standards of the profession,” he added.