Philippine Press Institute (PPI) Executive Director Ariel Cervantes Sebellimo (standing on the second row farthest right) with Central Luzon Media Association (CLMA) Region President Carmela Reyes-Estrope (seated 4th from left) with their respective group staffs and members during the Day 1 of the Media Council Central Luzon Leg. Contributed photo

ANGELES CITY—Close to fifty media members and representatives of multi-sector groups in Central Luzon actively participated in a two-day orientation-workshop on Media Accountability and the Press Council conducted by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) in their strong commitments to uphold press freedom and at the same time step up measures to help police their ranks in the region. 

The activity was held on March 21-22 at Oasis Hotel in Clarkville, Balibago in this city.

Prof. Gary Mariano, from De La Salle University and former chair of the Philippine Press Council addressed practicing media members from five chapters of Central Luzon Media Association (CLMA)–Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and Zambales including multi-sector groups–Police Regional Office (PRO) 3 Information Office, the Bulacan Provincial Government (PGB) representing the Local Government Unit (LGU),  Bulacan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) representing the business sector, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Bulacan State University (BulSU) representing the academe and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Region-3 of the need for a press council to both protect press freedom while also seeks to prevent its abuses. 

Mariano said in his lecture on the necessity and mechanism of a media council said that Press Council is a regulatory body within the PPI which promotes media accountability and media responsibility through self-regulatory mechanism in order to protect its ranks from all forms of harmful and harsh attacks—extra judicial killings, libel cases and other forms of harassment and intimidation.

He said self-regulatory mechanism is achieved through adherence to the Journalists Code of Ethics and intervention and membership to the council of the multi community sector which are the subjects of the daily news articles and stories of the reporters. Aggrieved members of the community from articles written or aired by reporters can go to the Council to hear their complaints. The Council will try to resolve the issue on its level to prevent reaching the court or for a libel case to be formally filed including other possible harassments. 

“There should be balancing responsibilities with our press freedom through self- regulation. There is no absolute freedom because absolute freedom encourages media abuses, impunity and no accountability,” Mariano pointed out.

On the other hand, censorship, disinformation, libel, inciting violence, hate speech, harassment conducted by the state restrict the media. 

This excludes red-tagging, the most recent form of state harassment against the media. 

According to Mariano, the country now only ranks 147th in the list of 180 countries in the world with the freest press freedom because of state intervention. 

Jonathan De Santos, chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) discussed the reasons and basis for decriminalization of libel. He cited the cases of Rappler co-founder and CEO Maria Ressa and Frank Cimatu, formerly of the Philippine Daily Inquirer who remains a Baguio-based journalist today.

Atty. Jo Clemente, former correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and chair of the NUJP also graced the event and shared inputs on the ideal composition of the membership of the council.   

The editorial team of newspaper companies and publications which are members of the PPI, the national association of newspapers in the country are deemed immediate members of the Council.

The PPI has earlier initiated and supported the creation of Cebu Press Council in 2005 and is considered the oldest press council in the country. The Cordillera Region was founded in 2021 while that of Davao, Batangas and Iloilo Councils were put up in 2022. 

Ariel Cervantes Sebellino, Executive Director of PPI said the 2-day CLMA Council Leg is overwhelming because of the attendance of 22 journalists and broadcasters and the vibrant discussions and perspectives of their roles in the Council shared by Lawyers Gener Endona, Angelo Lopez III and Alajandro Buan from IBP Pampanga and Region III, Atty. Hannah Jezel I. Rosario from CHR Region 3, Architect Aristotle Cruz Vice President for Innovation, Lilibeth Alcaraz, Executive Vice President and Pilipino Ramos, Corporate Secretary of the BCCI and Police Maj. Aileen Rose Stanger from PRO-3 Information Office and Prof. Tricia Ompoc and Dyan Grace Crespo from BulSU and PGB Provincial Public Affairs Office Assistant Information Officers Czarina Marie Tolentino and Maria Nicolas Gonzales.  

Day 2 of the activity. Contributed photo

In partnership with the Dutch Embassy, the Central Luzon Leg is the sixth council established by the PPI.

Sebellino sees the importance of a media council in Region 3 to cater to the media concerns on press freedom and ethical practice innate in the region. 

CLMA, now on its 45th year and the oldest existing regional media group in the country will pattern its council to the existing other councils under the PPI.

CLMA Region and chapter officers and members from Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and Zambales. Contributed photo

Carmela Reyes-Estrope, CLMA Region president which local Bulacan publication NEWS CORE is a PPI member who facilitated the CLMA Leg thanked the PPI and the Dutch Embassy for initiating and guiding them in forming the region’s own and respective media council.

Estrope, also a correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer during Bulacan group’s presentation on the workshop about “Complaints Procedure” in a council shared some media harassments and intimidations members of the fourth estate experience in the province including abuses being committed by some fellow media members.  

Estrope said the CLMA Media Council will see to it that all multi-sector sources and subjects of their daily news articles who are the common aggrieved parties in cases of media abuses will be well represented in the council.    

CLMA Region Executive Vice President Rojie V. Pangilinan, Pampanga President Arnel San Pedro and Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) President in Pampanga Benny Guinto also actively joined and supported the orientation-workshop and assured their commitments to the creation of the CLMA Media Council.