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PTFoMS, Comelec to sign accord ahead of ’25 polls

May 24, 2024 People's Tonight 88 views

Threats, intimidation, violence vs media to be classified as ‘election offenses’

MALACAÑAN—THE Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) and the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) will finalize an agreement that would classify threats, harassment, physical attacks and other forms of violence against members of the media during the election period as an ‘election offense.’

Usec. Paul M. Gutierrez, PTFoMS executive director, said this is one of the key concerns that he and COMELEC chairman, Atty. George Erwin M. Garcia, agreed on during their “brief but comprehensive” meeting at the commission’s office in Manila last May 23.

“I am glad that Chairman Garcia is fully supportive of the desire of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to create a safe environment for the country’s press, especially with the 2025 midterm election just around the corner,” Gutierrez said.

“Himself a former broadcast journalist, Chairman Garcia is keenly aware of the threats that our journalists face especially during the elections when tensions are high. I am pleased to note of the good chairman’s offer to exercise the power of the COMELEC to warn candidates, political parties and their supporters that any attempt to stifle the country’s press from performing its mandate during the election period would be dealt with swiftly and decisively,” he added.

Aside from classifying violations of media rights as an election offense, the PTFoMS also asked the poll body to be part of the media safety summits it has been organizing all over the country to drive home the point that the entire government is on board when it comes to upholding and protecting the rights of the members of the press.

The PTFoMS also committed to create a database of all election-related incidents involving media workers while both sides would also create a reporting mechanism that would be used by the COMELEC in swiftly addressing incidents brought to its attention by the PTFoMS.

Based on their discussion, Gutierrez said they expect to sign the memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the poll body as early as next month as both sides recognize the urgency of the situation.

“Moving forward, we can view this MOA as an initiative that would send a strong message to the public and the international community that the Philippines is committed to protecting press freedom and upholding democratic values and creating an informed citizenry,” Gutierrez said.