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Media killings task force responds to HRW’s criticism: ‘We’re hard at work’

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security on Sunday said that a human rights group criticizing it for supposed inaction did not talk to local media workers who were victims of violence.

If it had done so, they would have said that the PTFoMS is hard at work responding to their concerns, the task force added.

"We would have appreciated it if, in gathering data for his report, Mr. Conde had actually talked with media workers who were under threat of violence or were victims of violence," the PTFoMS said in a statement responding to Human Rights Watch's recent criticism of the group.

"In doing so, we believe they would have told him about how the PTFoMS responded to their complaints either by providing security through the [Philippine National Police] or immediately investigating cases of violence against media with the objective of arresting the perpetrator and bringing the appropriate charges against them," they added.

In his report, HRW-Asia division researcher Carlos Conde said that "little evidence" could be found of PTFoMS' efforts to actively pursue cases of attacks on journalists during the Duterte administration.

The PTFoMS said that it has been "hard at work" since it was created last October responding to journalists' complaints, and that it has mobilized its member agencies to investigate the deaths of Larry Que, Cris Ibon, Joaquin Briones, Leo Diaz, and Rudy Alicaway, who were mentioned in Conde's report.

"May we inform you that upon learning of these incidents of violence against media we lost no time in directing PTFoMS member agencies like the [National Bureau of Investigation], PNP, [Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management] and local PNP officials to immediately conduct investigation and file charges before the Department of Justice (DOJ)," the task force said.

"After thorough investigation, we filed charges against Governor [Joseph] Cua, and 3 others before the DOJ. We also provided security for Que’s bereaved family," it added, referring to the case of Catanduanes-based journalist Que, who was slain in December 2016.

In the statement, PTFoMS Executive Director Joel Sy Egco said that he plans to activate a PTFoMS Council in Sultan Kudarat when he attends Diaz's funeral this week.

Egco added that the task force even acted on Briones' death even though it was not directly linked to his work as a media worker.

Egco also invited Conde to attend regular meetings at the PTFoMS "to keep the Human Rights Watch informed" of the Duterte administration’s work to act on threats against the security of media workers.

"We also wanted to invite you and participate in our monthly meeting among member agency and look into our records on the cases you mentioned on what actions have been taken by the task force," the presidential undersecretary added.

Duterte signed Administrative Order No. 1  on October 2016, which created the Presidential Task Force on the violation of the right to life, liberty and security of members of the media. — Margaret Claire Layug/BM, GMA News