By Philippine Muslim Today News Team
Public officials have acknowledged the potentials of the infant Bangsamoro Press Corps (BPC) in promoting media workers’ welfare, professionalizing their ranks and honing their skills for harmonized reportage of events, thrusts and aspirations underlying the new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao.
Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, interim Bangsamoro government spokesman, and Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, among others, graced the induction of the BPC pioneer officers and members here and July 3, airing in separate messages their optimistic forecasts of the media group’s future.
Usec. Egco administered the oath-taking of the BPC pioneer officers, board of directors and members at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex lobby inside the Bangsamoro government compound here. The BPC officers and board of directors led by Philippine Muslim Today news editor Ali Macabalang were elected here last April 17.
Journalists’ safety and welfare
Egco, buoyed by the BPC formation, urged the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to create a regional counterpart of the PTFoMS to ensure the safety of media workers and prevent a semblance of the infamous 2009 “Maguindanao massacre” from happening.
In complementation of a regional task force, he said, the BARMM government through its parliament may also find it imperative to enact a “Media Welfare Act” similar to a national proposal now pending in Congress that seeks to meet the age-old inadequacies in common media workers, especially those in the countryside.
Egco furnished the BPC and the office of BARMM Spokesman Sinarimbo copies of the original enabling bill on media welfare, which seeks to provide reasonable monthly income from the state and its local government units (LGUs). He said Sinarimbo, being the concurrent Local Government Minister, could fittingly craft with the BPC a regional version of the bill.
He said the mechanism being implemented by the PTFoMS has been “acknowledged by international organizations as an effective deterrent against media violence,” said Egco, a National Press Club (NPC) past president. Organizers are contemplating to affiliate the BPC with the NPC.
“A BARMM Task Force on Media Security could be the only solution in preventing a repetition of the gruesome 2009 Maguindanao massacre that left 58 people killed, 32 of them media workers,” Egco said.
After almost 10 years of court trials, two masterminds in the massacre were convicted on Dec. 19, 2019 for 57 counts of murder and sentenced to reclusion perpetua without parole. Twenty eight co-accused including cops were meted similar penalties and sentenced to 40 years, while 15 others were sentenced to 6–10 years for being accessories to the crime. The Duterte administration through the PTFoMS was credited for the initial dispensation of justice.
Egco said his office will work closely the BARMM government and the BPC to craft the operational guidelines of the proposed regional task force in “deference to Bangsamoro’s parliamentary system.”
He said the PTFoMS data showed the autonomous region as one of regions vulnerable to violence against media workers that peaked in killing of 32 journalists in Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009 in a caravan to cover the filing of gubernatorial candidacy of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu in 2010.
The PTFoMS was created by President Duterte in 2016 through Administrative Order No. 1 with a mandate to protect the life, liberty, and security of media workers.
Bangsamoro media networks of national scope
In their separate remarks, Minister Sinarimbo and Rep. Mangudadato assured full support to Egco’s proposals and the BPC plans to professionalize the ranks of its members, hone its members’ skills, promote their ssafety and socio-economic welfare, and provide harmonized reportage of events, concerns and aspirations in the Bangsamoro region and of its regional governance.
Sinarimbo and Mangudadatu, both known for utmost concern for local journalists’ plight, even suggested the creation of a regional news network of national scope that can operate at par with Metro Manila media entities and maximize reportage about the Bangsamoro aspirations and potentials.
“You should explore the adoption of the teleradyo systems applied by giant networks in Manila. I, for one, will provide corresponding support,” Mangudadatu told the BPC officialdom in Pilipino.
Usec. Egco and Minister Sinarimbo met some BPC members and presented to them possibilities of replicating in the Bangsamoro region the state-funded British Broadcasting Company (BBC) of the United Kingdom and the Barnama of Malaysia that have been operating for decades on global scales.
The BPC officers and their induction guests were one in belief about the wide gap between the realities in BARMM and the ideals stipulated in the government peace accords with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as translated in R.A. 11054. The perceived gap was attributed to lack of comprehensive media reportage. (PMT)