CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Mike Banos / 30 Jul) Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. urged the Philippine media to keep close tabs on the Anti-Terrorism Bill which he fears could become a convenient tool to muzzle the press in the country.
"We need legislation to combat the sophisticated methods that terrorists employ to harm the innocent," Pimentel said at the weekend in his keynote speech during the induction of the incoming Board of Trustees of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) at a local hotel.
"But everyone, especially the members of the media, are called upon to help see to it that the law on terrorism that comes out of Congress must not infringe upon our basic freedoms in the name of the fight against terrorism," he said.
"I suggest that it is important for the PPI and for all other mass media organizations and concerned citizen groups to monitor the shape and form that this legislation will take," he said. "Your views are especially welcome on the provisions on arrests without warrants, surreptitious wire tapping, scrutinizing your emails and other private communications, and probably even your bank accounts by government agents."
Pimentel also warned that the difficulties the US press has been experiencing in publishing what Washington had at various times considered to be sensitive information is already "pressing on our shores" citing the news blackout over the military operation against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and Sulu Archipelago a year or two ago.
"It would do the PPI well to put their collective heads together and map out suggestions on how the press will handle matters involving issues on terrorism under present laws and the rights of our people under the projected anti-terrorism legislation."
Amado Macasaet, PPI chairman and president, also warned that media and state can never mix, lest this spell the end of the latter as a democratic institution.
"Media and the state are classical adversaries," Macasaet said. "They should never be friends. If media and the state should ever come to terms, we are finished."
Elected new officers and members of the PPI Board of Trustees were Amado Macasaet, chairman and president, Publisher (Malaya); Isagani Yambot, vice president, Publisher (Philippine Daily Inquirer); Ronaldo Romero, treasurer, Editor-Publisher (Business World); Allan Mediante, trustee for Mindanao, asst. vice president (Mindanao Gold Star Daily).
Quirino Alban, trustee for Luzon, editor-publisher, Makiling Journal; Michelle So, trustee for Visayas, Executive Editor, Sun Star Cebu; and trustees Augusto Villanueva, Editor-in-Chief (Journal Group); Rogelio Salazar, Chief Executive Officer (Manila Standard); Antonio Katigbak, Managing Editor (Philippine Star) and Juan Mercado, Director (Press Foundation for Asia).
Also present during the induction were Jose Pavia, executive director, editor-publisher (Mabuhay) and Gary Mariano, Philippine Press Council chairman, asst. professor ( De La Salle University-Greenhills).
Besides inducting the new PPI Board of Trustees into office, Pimentel also inducted the charter officers of the Cagayan de Oro Communicators Association.
Also in the induction ceremony were Misamis Oriental Governor Oscar Moreno, former Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Pablo Magtajas, Cagayan de Oro Press Club President Uriel Quilinguing and KBP-Cagayan de Oro Chapter Chairman Jonas Bustamante.