THREE PRESIDENTIAL candidates laid down their plans on protecting press freedom and media practitioners in the Philippines, stressing on the importance of transparency and access to information, especially at a time when fake news is easily spread through online platforms.  

During the virtual World Press Freedom Forum of the Philippine Press Institute on Monday, opposition bet Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo said she will welcome feedback and criticism and prevent the harassment of the media in country. 

“Informed discourse is integral to any democracy, as such government should be the foremost defender to the public’s right to information,she said in a recorded message during the forum streamed live on Facebook.   

“We will protect media workers from harassment and enact policies that will promote transparency and uphold freedom of information,she said.   

Ms. Robredo was campaigning in the Cordillera region on Monday.  

Labor leader Leodegario “Ka Leody” de Guzman also emphasized the importance of transparency, but pointed out the structural flaws in society that favor the elite as an obstacle to press freedom.  

“Everyone will probably say that they are in favor of press freedom and freedom of information, but our country’s history of lies and deceit is why fake news remain,” he said in Filipino at the forum.   

“Fake news and red-tagging are used by elite politicians for their own interests, which is why we need to change this structure that favors the vested interests of the elite in pushing for true press freedom.”  

Senator Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao reiterated his stance on press freedom being essential to the country’s democracy.  

“Being one with our media practitioners, I believe that press freedom is the face of our democracy, Mr. Pacquiao said in a statement read by his media officer, Virgilio J. Bagaoisan, during the forum.    

At the weekend, the retired world boxing champion assured the media of transparency and upholding the right to free speech if he wins on May 9 as he visited the Press Freedom Monument in Cagayan de Oro City.  

This press freedom monument is a symbol of our democracy. The media is free to express themselves and this is how we exercise our democracy,he said in Filipino.  

President Rodrigo R. Duterte earlier declared August 30 of every year as National Press Freedom Day.  

Last year, the Philippines ranked 138th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, according to Reporters without Borders. John Victor D. Ordonez with reports from Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza