MANILA, Philippines – The government and media need not be enemies.
This is what outgoing Palace Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr said in his farewell message on Tuesday, June 28 – two days before President Benigno Aquino III steps down from office.
“Di kailangan maging magkaaway ang pamahalaan at media. Puwede naman mag-tulungan sa kapakanan ng bansa. Mahalaga lang unawain ang konteksto at perspektibo sa pag-uulat ng balita at paghahatid ng impormasyon,” Coloma said, reading from a prepared statement at the end of his final press briefing for the Malacañang Press Corps.
(The government and media need not be enemies. They can help each other for the country’s welfare. It is just important to understand the context and perspective when reporting news and information.)
“While it is true that it is the duty of media to be a watchdog of the public against possible government abuse, it is equally true that media can be a critical partner of government in public communication,” he added.
This, too, may serve as Coloma’s advice to his successor, Martin Andanar. Asked at the news briefing for pointers he could give the latter, Coloma only said: “Siguro pakinggan nyo na lang ‘yung sasabihin ko (sa speech) baka meron nang hawig din iyon.”
(Maybe you should just listen to my farewell statement, it might be the same.)
After being embroiled in supposed misunderstandings with members of the media because of his jokes and statements on media killings, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said he would no longer grant media interviews until the end of his term.
Duterte and his camp have also barred members of the media from covering them. Only state-run PTV4 and RTVM are given direct access to media coverage.
‘Never again to prior restraint’ to media
With this, Coloma called on members of the media to continuously uphold and protect freedom of the press and of expression.
Coloma, a student journalist then, recalled how he was detained during Martial Law, adding that many citizens were “deprived” of their freedom of expression.
“We must not drop our guard nor waiver in our vigilance. Never again should there be prior restraint on the exercise of freedom of expression and of the press,” Coloma said.
As he said his goodbyes, the outgoing secretary then urged members of the media to still continue working with the government.
“I encourage you to continue working together with your counterparts in government to ensure that in this age of digital technology, we are able to check all the facts that get into the news stories that we broadcast and disseminate,” he added.
After the briefing, PCOO officials organized a farewell photo with the Palace media.