PTFoMS tags media attack as “fake news”

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – Presidential Task Force for Media Security (PTFoMS) Executive Director Joel Sy Egco in a Facebook post published on 28 July 2020 took a swipe at the media organizations that carried the news about the seizure of more than a thousand copies of Pinoy Weekly magazine in a raid in Bulacan. The government official also called the report “propaganda gone awry.”

PTFoMS Facebook page also shared the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) inforgraphics dismissing the incident as “fake news.”

On July 26, members of the Pandi police headed by PCPT Jun Alejandrino raided the local office of the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) and seized copies of the publication.

When asked for a search warrant, Alejandrino said that the magazine is “illegal” because it “teaches people to fight the government.” The police chief also threatened members of Kadamay to give up the copies or “something will happen.”

Egco took to Facebook to castigate the media that reported the incident, describing their reports as “fake news” because he said the incident did not happen as claimed. Egco posted that when he read the news, he immediately called Central Luzon Police Regional Director PBGen Rhodel Sermonia who told him that the publications were voluntarily surrendered to the police. Egco also said that Pinoy Weekly was just riding on the issue of press freedom, mocking those who who reported the incident – telling them to read at least the first paragraph of the Journalists’ Code of Ethics and “be a (sic) real journo.”

Pinoy Weekly Editor Kenneth Guda said  that Kadamay members informed their staff that they were threatened into surrendering the issues of the magazine, and pointed out that even Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had said that what transpired was illegal. Guda also said that they are currently looking at legal options to take to “task the cops responsible for the violation of press freedom.” He also asked Egco to fact-check.

Egco stood by his statements and the two engaged in a hostile conversation in the former’s FB page.

This was not Egco’s first clash with members of media. On 20 July 2018, Egco asked SunStar Baguio to rectify or delete a news article about his stand on licensing journalists. Egco tagged the report as “misinformation” but the reporter managed to secure a recording that proved otherwise.

PTFoMS has on several occasions also criticized reports of CMFR’s and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on threats and attacks against the press in an attempt to downplay the deteriorating state of press freedom in the country.

The Duterte administration created PTFoMs through Administrative Order No. 1, mandating the agency to protect the right to life, liberty and security of the members of the media.

In the latest incident, the task force’s Executive Director contacted the police first and did not bother to get the side of the editor or the media organization under attack. This failure to get the side of the media speaks volumes about the sincerity or credibility of PTFoMs as an agency charged with defending the media and the freedom of journalists.

It would seem that its key official is somewhat confused about which side he should be defending, now that government officials, including the police,  are quick to label journalists as ”enemies of the state.”