Senator Ejercito calls for early passage of “Journalist Protection and Welfare” bill

April 9, 2014 8:42 am 

CALAMBA CITY, Laguna April 8 -– Despite the Senate recess, Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito welcomed the Calabarzon media organization for their educational tour Monday afternoon and assured them on the early passage of the “Journalist Protection and Welfare Act” he re-filed in the Senate the same measure he filed as principal author while serving at the House of Representatives.

Sen. Ejercito with Senate consultant and former Cavite three-term Congressman Crispin Remulla issued the call with colleagues-legislators during the courtesy call by visiting Calabarzon media practitioners’ at the Senate’s Senator Ambrosio Padilla function room.

Alarmed by the spate of media killings with the latest incident involving Remate tabloid correspondent and Cavite newshen Robelita Tugbo Garcia, Senator JV assured the media personalities and journalists on the legislative mill’s enactment of the bill to stop press people from falling victims of harassment and violence.

“We commiserate with the family of Rubie Garcia and assure to provide assistance and whatever support we can give to your fallen media colleague,” Sen. JV said.

Sen. Ejercito observed that the “media killings” have gone unabated even during the Aquino administration after the gruesome massacre of innocent people and journalists in Maguindanao more than four years ago.

“I only hope and appeal to the PNP (police) and other law enforcement agencies to do their jobs to prevent the occurrence of such,” the solon said.

He said he filed the “Journalist Protection and Welfare Act” during the 15th Congress when he was a member of the House of Representatives together with then Cavite Representative “Boying” Remulla as an offshoot of the Maguindanao massacre.

Senator JV’s proposed bill provides for privileges, benefits especially for the journalists’ work including the provision for hazard pay due to the nature of their work and the risks and dangers related to their journalistic profession.

Former Cavite Congressman Remulla also disclosed he phoned Cavite Provincial Police Director Senior Supt. Joselito Esquivel as program host and broadcaster in a DWIZ radio program “Karambola” on the motive of the killing and surrounding circumstances on Rubie’s case.

“This is serious especially in Cavite where recent crime incidents were reported including the P2 million robbery case in Silang town proper where the owner was killed and the fourth crime where a gun was used in a week’s time,” former Rep. Remulla observed.

He also said that as a Caviteño, brother of the incumbent Governor Jon-Vic and broadcaster, Remulla said he was apprised of the situation and that the provincial board mulled to set up the reward system as the “Task Force Tugis” intensify to hunt the perpetrators within 48 hours.

It was reported that Bacoor City Mayor Strike Revilla has already offered the P50,000 pesos reward for the arrest of the suspects especially now that the assassin’s cartographic sketch was released while the Tanza chief of police Supt. Conrado Villanueva was relieved.

Senator JV’s bill’s salient feature proposes for the regular wages for all journalists noting how the majority media practitioners and freelance are without regular income or those under the common practice of the “no article, no pay” thereby requiring management and publishers’ support.

He also explained his proposed measure includes health benefits and insurance for the working press due to the nature of work and risks attached to it.

Remulla said police conducted closed-door conference as the matter is sensitive especially on establishing the motive of the suspects and sourcing the evidence such as checking from the CCTV cameras available.

“We cannot just leave this case to lag, former Rep. Remulla admitted, as we feel the brunt, the pain because the reputation of Cavite is at stake here on this latest “media killing” incident.”

Remulla said journalists are in frequent “battle” with abusive persons and reckless elements citing his own experience as a broadcaster for 10 years.

“We used to have permits to carry (guns) although police are supposed to protect us, but they changed the rules and now we cannot protect ourselves,” the former Cavite lawmaker remarked.

Senator Ejercito as principal author of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill also expounded that the Right Of Reply (ROR) bill was not integrated into the consolidated FOI because the lawmakers believed the ROR should be a separate measure.

“As a principal author of the FOI, I and my colleagues at the Senate made sure we passed it before we adjourned and now the battle ground is at the House of Representatives,” Sen. JV said citing his Senate pet bill needs counterpart sponsor from the Lower House.

Ejercito also assured the visiting Calabarzon media practitioners on amendments to the PDEA law which requires a journalist or media practitioner as a witness to sign to the custodial or material evidence of intercepted illegal drugs during a buy-bust or anti-drug operations.

He welcomed the amended proposal for incorporation into the Journalist Protection and Welfare Act since this provision in the PDEA law on the journalists called as “required” witness will pose unnecessary risks and dangers on the lives of media practitioners.

“We are aware that this drug menace is perpetrated by the international syndicate, and once you are involved here, the dangers are not only triggered by the drug dealers but also by the international syndicate,” the Senator said. (PNA)

CTB/BY SAUL E. PA-A/UTB

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