By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral

Duterte issues administrative order amid online threats to media

Posted on October 14, 2016

AMID ONLINE attacks on journalists for their reports critical to the administration, Malacañang on Thursday announced an administrative order creating a Presidential Task Force that will probe assaults on members of the press.

Signed on Oct. 11 by President Rodrigo R.. Duterte and Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea, Administrative Order (AO) No. 1 declares that “all forms of political violence and abuses of power, whether by agents or elements of the State or of non-State forces against the so-called Fourth Estate, must stop.”

Section 1 of the order, on “Violence against Media Workers,” refers to “the attempted, frustrated, or consummated killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty and security of Media Workers who were targeted by reason of the media work of such persons.”

The order also said an investigating body will conduct an inventory of all cases of violence against media workers which will be put under the following categories: unsolved cases; cases under investigation; cases under preliminary investigation; cases under trial; and cases under appeal.

A special team of probers will “exclusively” look into new cases for the “immediate investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.”

The task force, which has a special oversight team composed of investigators and prosecutors, will be led by Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II as chairperson and Communications Secretary Martin M. Andanar as co-chairperson.

The investigating group will also invite the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Ombudsman, and various media advocacy organizations as “observers and resource persons.”

The new AO replaces AO No. 35 of 2012 -- signed by Mr. Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno S. C. Aquino III -- which serves to activate an inter-agency committee on extralegal killings.

On average, one journalist is killed every week around the world, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2015.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Philippines ranks third worldwide in terms of the number of journalists killed in the course of their profession.

Online threats against journalists are not included in the “inventory of cases” in the AO, but Malacañang on Thursday assured the issue will be discussed among concerned agencies under the presidential task force.

Mr. Andanar at Thursday’s press briefing said journalists being harassed or threatened by trolls on the Internet can report this to the task force and agencies under it.

“So pwede po kayong magsumbong (You can report this). Ito’y pag-uusapan po ng iba’t ibang ahensiya na kasama dito at iyong mga (This will be discussed among different agencies and those) members or ’yung mga (the) private members ng (of the) Presidential Task Force, kasama na po diyan ’yung (including the) KBP (Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas), ‘yung PAPI (Publishers Association of the Philippines), [and] NUJP (National Union of Journalists of the Philippines).”

“The reason why the President wanted this Admin Order or Administrative Order No. 1 is because he cares for you, for us. And he believes in freedom of the press,” Mr. Andanar said, in part to explain the AO.

He added the budget for the presidential task force is not included in the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2017.

The NUJP on Wednesday criticized anew the online threats on journalists, including Reuters reporters Manny Mogato and Karen Lema.