CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City— General Carlito Galvez Jr, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), assured media organizations and personnel that the military will uphold press freedom in Mindanao while martial law is being implemented.
The Chief of Staff made the assurance today, October 26, in the Mindanao Media Safety and Security Summit held in Toril, Davao City. The summit was organized by the Mindanao Independent Press Council, Inc (MIPC).
“We have strictly ensured that our soldiers implementing martial law adhere to the rule of law. We are very pleased to note that many of our stakeholders have observed that our soldiers are very professional and respectful of the local leaders and incumbent officials,” General Galvez said as he addressed media participants in the summit.
General Galvez was joined by the AFP’s primary talking heads particularly Public Affairs Office Chief Colonel Noel Detoyato; Army Chief Public Affairs Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva; Director of the Navy Public Affairs Office Commander Jonathan Zata; and Air Force Public Affairs Office Chief Major Aristides Galang.
The event was held as a venue for discussions on the challenges faced by media personnel and organizations in Mindanao and to promote safety and security for journalists covering conflict.
The two-day summit which started October 25 was attended by top government officials including Peace Secretary Jesus Dureza, who discussed on peace culture and the Mindanao peace process and Special Adviser to the President Bong Go who gave his inspirational talk.
He was joined by Undersecretary Joel Egco of the Presidential Task Force for Media Security who discussed the role of his agency in the safety and security of journalists in Mindanao.
Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangundadatu also gave his insights on the role of media sources in the safety and security of journalists while Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Governor Mujib Hataman discussed the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) to the media. Moro youth Taher Solaiman also gave his perspective on the BOL.
National Bureau of Investigation Dante Gierran gave his thoughts on how journalists could prepare for their coverage and the cyber security law in a hostile environment.
“The AFP commits itself in forging partnerships anchored in effective coverage and media safety and security; not only in conflict situations but more importantly in environments where threats—physical and political—are abound,” General Galvez said.
General Galvez also appealed to the media to be more perceptive in their work to avoid being used by violent extremists for their propaganda.
“Terrorist organizations including the New People’s Army and Daesh-inspired groups have platforms and mouthpieces that exploit national and regional issues to advance their violent ideologies,” General Galvez warned.
“It is the media’s duty and responsibility to challenge enemy narratives that seek to glorify violence and discredit legitimate peace and development efforts of the government,” General Galvez added.
At the end of the summit, MIPC presented the “Mindanao Manifesto” calling on the Philippine National Police to end the practice of requiring journalists to sign as witnesses during anti-drug law enforcement operations.
MIPC also expressed their alarm on the rising incidents of “threats, harassment, and intimidation targeting members of the press” who report on critical issues.
“We urge the authorities to fast track the prosecution of persons behind harassment and killings of media in Mindanao who remained at large,” the manifesto said.
“We value media coverage but there are greater considerations that come to play, especially in cases where high levels of confidentiality are warranted, thus limiting the access and coverage of the media,” General Galvez explained in his speech.
“Should there be a need for media practitioners to research and gather materials, especially in critical areas here in Mindanao, or if there are threats to your lives or safety, please do not hesitate to tell us,” General Galvez added.