Press Release
January 29, 2008

Jinggoy appeals for gov't cooperation in judicial proceedings on "press freedom cases;" renews call for public hearings on proposed Magna Carta for Journalists

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada today appealed to officials of the Executive Department, police and military named as respondents in two petitions filed by media groups to "fully cooperate in the judicial proceedings to enable speedy resolution of the press freedom cases," as he renewed his call on Senate Public Information and Mass Media Committee chairman Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr. to conduct public hearings on his bill seeking to enact a Magna Carta for Journalists.

"Aside from our desire for swift resolution by the courts of the petitions, for which I am appealing on the respondents not to take any actions that could delay or derail the proceedings, we must also have these public hearings already on the proposed Magna Carta to enable the legislative branch to clearly define the legal guides in issues like this," Estrada said.

Estrada aired the calls after media organizations and individual media practitioners led by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and Philippine Press Institute filed a class suit before the Makati Regional Trial Court against Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, and National Police chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr, as well as other ranking military and police officials. The RTC issued a 72-hour temporary restraining order against the government to prevent its officials from "harassing press people" pending resolution of the petition.

Another group of journalists filed a petition before the Supreme Court for the issuance of writs of prohibition and injunction urging the tribunal to stop the government from imposing prior restraint on the press by threatening to file criminal complaints against journalists. In the Supreme Court petition, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was included as a respondent.

Both cases are offshoots of the arrest of journalists who covered the November 2007 Manila Peninsula siege, and the respondents' subsequent threats to carry out similar arrests in future "emergency situations." Estrada, after the Manila Pen incident, lambasted the arrest of media done by the police.

Estrada's Senate Bill No. 515, "Magna Carta for Journalists," filed last year and has since been pending with Revilla's committee, seeks to, among others: "ensure the creation of an atmosphere conducive to a productive and fruitful journalism work, directs law enforcers to extend necessary courtesy to ensure the unhampered media exercise of their profession, and promote the defense and protection of freedom and human rights of journalists and their organizations."

"Under the Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution as well as the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, certain civil and political rights are guaranteed every person, among which are the freedom of speech and freedom of the press," Estrada said.

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