EIGHT presidential candidates for the 2022 national polls vowed to protect press freedom should they win the elections.

In a forum hosted by the Philippine Press Institute and the Journalism Studies Association of the Philippines, the presidential candidates promised that the media would enjoy a free flow of information during their terms.

Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo said the government should be the foremost defender of the public’s right to information, which, in turn, would ensure an empowered environment for both the media and their audience. 

“We will protect media workers from harassment. We will widen the spaces for dissent. We will welcome feedback and criticism and use this to refine and improve the workings of government. We will enact an enforced policy that promotes transparency,” Robredo said.

To uphold press freedom, former defense chief Norberto Gonzales pushed for the financial independence of media outfits, the formation of a regulatory body for media networks, and cooperation between the media and the government toward nation-building.

“I believe that when we are building a nation, when we are trying to put order in our society, [the] government must do this with the participation of the people, and correct participation will not happen if there [is] no sufficient information. And I believe that the source of information will be media that is free,” Gonzales said.

Labor leader Ka Leody de Guzman said the proliferation of lies, deceit and “fake news” would continue if the few powerful people remained and keep on taking advantage of media outfits for their propaganda.

“Hanggat naghahari yung iilan sa tuktok ng ating lipunan. Lahat ng taong naghahangad ng pagbabago ay susupilin. Kaisa nyo ako sa pangarap at aking adhikain na magkaron ng totoong kalayaan sa pamamahayag,” said de Guzman. 

Previous statements on press freedom of presidential candidates who were not able to send a video were shown during the forum.

In 2018, Sen. Manny Pacquiao said bloggers should obtain government licenses to avoid anonymity in their online posts. On April 30, 2022, Pacquiao said during a visit to the Press Freedom Monument in Cagayan de Oro that he would not allow the government to control the press again like the Martial Law.

“Press freedom is the face of democracy. We will not allow a return to the time of (former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.] where the press is controlled by the government,” Pacquiao was quoted as saying in a Rappler report.

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson promised to fight for freedom of information in 2021 as he said that the freedom of the press was democracy itself. 

Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who said that he was not keen on having a press secretary or a press spokesperson, vowed to hold regular press briefings and be accessible to the media should he win the elections. 

Marcos, however, has been dodging media interviews and controlling the entry of reporters on several occasions during his campaigns.

For Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, “press freedom should be practiced, and any state should continue to respect that.”

The forum was held on the eve of World Press Freedom Day. 


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