Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar expressed hope that the Congress will give priority to a measure meant to provide quality compensation and security of tenure for media workers.
During a Kapihan press conference in Malate, Manila, Andanar said after the court announces its verdict on the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case on Thursday (Dec. 19), the task of protecting media workers does not end there.
“After ng promulgation bukas, now what? Ano nang gagawin natin? Panatag ang loob ko na kapag positibo ang result ng promulgation, tuloy-tuloy ang magiging trabaho ng Presidential Task Force on Media Security (After the promulgation tomorrow, what now? I am confident that if the results will be positive, the work of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security continues),” Andanar said.
“Pero merong kulang talaga dito. Ito ay yung sinumiteng bill, itong sa Media [Workers] Welfare Act na sana ay masolusyunan natin ang ugat ng problema ng media killings lalo na sa mga probinsiya (But there is something lacking here. It is the proposed bill on Media [Workers] Welfare Act which we hope will be the solution to the root of media killings especially in the province),” he added.
The Maguindanao massacre has been described as the single deadliest event for the press after 32 journalists were among at least 58 victims killed as they traveled to Maguindanao province in the Philippines to cover the filing of candidacy of then Maguindanao governor candidate Esmael Mangudadatu.
To further protect media from killings, Andanar urged for the passage of the proposed “Media Workers Welfare Act” bill which aims to provide media workers with humane conditions of work and living wage.
The PCOO chief said if the proposed measure is passed, media workers will no longer be tempted to engage in blocktiming or the practice of buying “blocks” of air time to produce programs independent of networks and stations.
“Alam natin na marami sa nababaril, namamatay ito yung mga independent media. Sila yung mga blocktimer na walang steady income. Sila ay nagiging biktima rin. Wala silang choice na maging talking head ng poltiko. Sila yung napupuruhan (We know that there are many independent media workers being harmed, killed. These are blocktimers without steady income. They become victims. They do not have a choice except to be talking heads of politicians. They’re the ones who suffer the most),” Andanar said.
“With the Media [Workers] Welfare Act, isa sa mga suhestiyon dito ay yung maprotektahan bawat media worker na mabigyan sila ng regular na trabaho at mabigyan sila ng proteksyon sa kanilang trabaho. Yung hindi casual na employee, kundi regular na employee na may benepisyo (one of the suggestions here is to protect media workers by giving them regular jobs and security of tenure. They will not remain casual employees but regular employees with benefits),” he added.
Andanar said the PTFoMS executive director Joel Sy Egco will meet with House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to discuss the proposed measure.
“Hopefully ay ito ay maaksyunan sa Kongreso. Kakausapin pa namin si Speaker Alan Cayetano para mabigyan ito ng priority (Hopefully, the Congress will take action. We will speak to Speaker Alan Cayetano so that this would be given priority),” Andanar said.
Andanar described the lack of protection, security, and benefits of media workers as a “vicious cycle” that needs to be addressed.
“This problem of ours has become a vicious cycle. How do we make it a virtuous cycle? We must go to the bottom of the problem and that problem is the lack of a good welfare system or law for us media workers,” Andanar said.
In July this year, Anti-Crime and Terrorism Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS) Rep. Rowena Nina Taduran, a former broadcast personality, filed the Media Workers Welfare Act bill which aims for equal protection and standardize remuneration for media workers.
With backing from Malacañang, through PTFoMS, Egco said they he is confident the proposed bill will move smoothly in Congress.
Under the proposed measure, the Commission on Press Freedom and Media Security (CPFMS) will be created to serve as media workers’ safeguard from all forms of attacks and as a development center for journalism.
The Commission shall be headed by the PCOO and composed of journalists’ organizations duly recognized by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) represented by their respective presidents.
With the creation of the CPFMS, the PTFoMS, which was created under Administrative Order No. 1, series of 2016 shall be abolished and its functions and operational guidelines shall be subsumed by the CPFMS.
The PTFoMS was created by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016 to address media killings and harassment.
This bill aims to provide for a matrix for the hazard pays of employees dispatched to war-torn areas for coverage as there is none yet existing today.
It is meant to grant mandatory media workers with additional insurance benefits by the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service lnsurance System (GSlS) including death benefit, disability benefit, and reimbursement of medical expenses.
The bill also declares that any warrant of arrest or search warrant issued against any media worker accused of any offense related to the practice of his/her profession shall be served in coordination with the commission or the local media organization in the area where the employee operates. (PNA)