MANILA (Mabuhay) – A measure declaring the anniversary of the infamous Maguindanao massacre as Philippine Press Freedom Day has been approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading.
Under House Bill 4128, every 23rd of November shall be commemorated as a day to celebrate freedom and awareness of the press in the Philippines.
The date gained significance in the aftermath of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, considered as the single deadliest event for journalists in recent history.
The massacre, blamed on the powerful Ampatuan political clan, claimed the lives of 58 people, including 32 journalists.
“[The bill intends to] promote and uphold freedom and heighten awareness on press freedom so that journalists may freely and securely report the truth no matter who gets hurt by it,” said Misamis Occidental Rep. Jorge Almonte, chair of the House committee on public information.
To mark Philippine Press Freedom Day, heads of government agencies, government-owned and -controlled corporations, local government units and employers in the private sector shall encourage their employees to engage and participate in any activity related to upholding press freedom within the respective premises of their office.
The measure also requires the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, in coordination with the Presidential Communications Operations Office, other government media organizations, and private media organizations, to lead public and private school communities at all levels in organizing consciousness-raising activities on the importance of the press, their rights and social responsibility and the elimination of all forms of violence against the press.
Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, one of the principal authors of the bill substituted by HB 4128, said the commemoration of Philippine Press Freedom Day on November 23 is meant to remind the public “of the sacrifices of the journalists who gave up their lives in the practice of their profession.”
Four years after the killings, 88 suspects remain at large, while more than 100 of the 196 suspects have already been arrested. Of those arrested, at least 104 have been arraigned and all pleaded not guilty to the multiple murder charges.
Among those arraigned are eight Ampatuan clan members, including Andal Ampatuan Sr., a former Maguindanao governor, as well as his three sons, Andal Jr., Rizaldy, and Sajid. (MNS)