MANILA — The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to declare Nov. 23 of every year as Philippine Press Freedom Day to give recognition to the importance of press freedom in the country.
The House Committee on Public Information recommended the approval of House Bill No. 4128, which substituted HB 635 authored by AKO Bicol Party-list Reps. Christopher Co and Rodel Batocabe.
“The measure, declaring November 23rd of every year as Philippine Press Freedom Day, shall 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 Rep. Jorge Almonte (1st District, Misamis Occidental), committee chairman.
Co said while the Philippines is considered to have the freest press in Asia, it is also bombarded with numerous cases of journalists who disappeared and got killed.
“Remembered as the single deadliest event for journalists in recent history was what happened on November 23, 2009. The Maguindanao massacre is and continues to be a symbol of a fight for press freedom and their rights in the practice of their profession,” Co said.
“The commemoration of Philippine Press Freedom Day shall serve as a fitting reminder that we will never forget the sacrifices of these journalists who gave up their lives in the practice of their profession,” he stressed.
Batocabe said, “the Maguindanao massacre is a wanton violation of the rights, and the day that such an abuse of power and machinery happened at the expense of innocent truth seekers must be a day to commemorate and honor their sacrifices to prevent another ignominy in the history of the Philippine press.”
Under the measure, all heads of government agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned and controlled corporations as well as local government units and employers in the private sector, shall encourage and afford sufficient time and opportunities for their employees to engage and participate in any related activity conducted within the premises of their respective offices or establishments to celebrate Philippine Press Freedom Day.
The measure requires the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), in coordination with the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), 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.