National Press Club President Paul Gutierrez with Bulacan First District Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado and Bulacan Press Club members during 2016 Aug. 30 Marcelo Del Pilar Day celebration. Alvarado filed that year the National Responsible Press Freedom Day bill in Congress in honor of the hero and the media sector. NEWS CORE file photo

CITY OF MALOLOS–The National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) on Tuesday reiterated its call on the immediate passage of a bill in Senate that will declare August 30, birthdate of hero Marcelo H. Del Pilar, also known as Plaridel, as National Press Freedom Day while it strongly assails to mark the Nov. 23 Maguindanao Massacre as the annual special day for the media.

“It is high time for the country to recognize the role of Plaridel in the fight for the country’s freedom and the establishment of a free and responsible press,” said Paul Gutierrez, president of NPC, the country’s biggest media organization.

Gutierrez made the call following a consultation meeting with the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media under Sen. Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla, on Tuesday in preparation for the plenary discussion on the proposed measure.

Also Gutierrez declined to support calls and proposals by other media groups to make the November 23 Maguindanao Massacre as the National Press Freedom Day.

He said the event is the darkest day in the country’s media history and it is not only highly unfitting but is a mockery of press freedom and the media sector to the media if it will be declared as the country’s press freedom day.

“Let us not turn November 23, a day of infamy and the blackest day for Philippine media, as a day to celebrate and uphold the importance of a free and responsible press,” he said.

Usec. Joel Sy-Egco, Executive Director of Presidential Task Force on Media Security said commemoration and celebration is on the life of heroes and not death. 

“Even the July 4 death of Del Pilar is not an ideal celebration of press freedom day, more so the most gruesome massacre of our colleagues,” says Egco.

Senate Bill 670 titled “An Act Declaring August 30 of Every Year as ‘National Press Freedom Day,” is one of the first proposals in favor of the media filed by Revilla as far back as July 22, 2019.

The bill had already passed committee deliberations and was reported out under Committee Report No. 48 last February 12, 2020, signed by the majority of the committee members, namely: Revilla, Sen. Grace Poe, committee vice chair, and senators, Francis Tolentino, Panfilo Lacson, Joel Villanueva, Manny Pacquiao, and Risa Hontiveros.

The measure aims to “ensure the meaningful observance and celebration of National Press Freedom” by media, government agencies and instrumentalities, and educational institutions across the country.

Gutierrez said the Club and its affiliate organizations in the country lauded the effort of Revilla in pushing for the passage of a law “that would not only give justice to the Father of Philippine Journalism by highlighting his contributions to the development of our national consciousness and the importance of a free and responsible press as a tool towards the creation of an orderly society and in promoting transparency in governance.”

“With the current political climate in the country and the proliferation of confusing, if not fake and misleading, information, there is a need for the media and the public to be reminded of the importance of a responsible press,” said Gutierrez. 

The House of Representatives since the 17th Congress (2016-2019), had been passing its version of the proposed law sponsored by Bulacan first district representative, Jonathan Sy-Alvarado.

More than 50 local journos in Maguindanao were slaughtered on Nov. 23, 2009 by political war lord clan of the Ampatuans.