A recipe for disaster

“If there are plans to make PTFOMS a milking cow by transforming it into a welfare office for the media, whoever is behind this may only be courting future criminal and administrative charges.”

Oops! My source for the next Solicitor General was way off the mark. My apologies.

Yesterday, the camp of President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos released a list of three more additional nominees for incoming Cabinet posts and named SolGen as outgoing Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

As the day for BBM’s official takeover of the country’s highest post draws near, more and more names are being floated as possible successors to President Rodrigo Duterte’s outgoing Cabinet men.

While I have stated before I am not in the business of predicting who BBM will appoint to this or that position or to question his choices, there is one particular agency I am most concerned with, and whoever is appointed to head the said office — the Presidential Task Force on Media Security.

Yesterday, I ran across a social media post of former journalist Dale de Vera (Heard he had resigned already from his media outlet), stating reporter Edu Punay has resigned from Philippine Star and is set to head the PTFOMS.

I don’t know Edu Punay personally. In fact, the closest thing I have gotten to know him was when he was assigned to the Congress beat.

But then, I was on my way out. At that time, I decided to cease covering beats and instead simply focus on column writing.

Anyway, who is Edu Punay? I’m pretty sure not everyone in the media industry is familiar with him.

Edu is a former Philippine Star reporter (As it was announced by Dale), who covered the BBM presidential campaign. According to sources within the BBM camp, the PTFOMS post was promised to Edu as a reward for his campaign coverage by no less than the head of BBM’s media team Rey Briones.

Reportedly, Briones wants Punay to take over the PTFOMS now headed by Undersecretary Joel Egco. What!

I don’t mean to undermine Punay. As I’ve said before, it’s not my business to question BBM’s choices to his official family. It’s too early for that.

Also, it is not in my character to hinder a colleague’s endeavor or success.

But Egco was not picked to head PTFOMS just to reward him for anything else.

He was placed there because he earned that post. He was a senior reporter or chief of reporters, if I remember right, of the Manila Times before getting elected to head the prestigious National Press Club.

And when he got the job to handle media security, no one among the media industry players or practitioners protested because we respect him.

We trust him. We know he can lead and he will always be at the forefront fighting for our interest.

And he has proven that countless times. Records will show how he handled the Ampatuan Massacre which has apparently been neglected during the past administration; how he handled violence including killings committed against media practitioners leading to the arrest of the perpetrators and the resolution of the cases.

True to his slogan during the NPC campaign, “Dala ko ang egg ko, Joel really has the balls to lead which resulted in a drastic reduction of violence against media during the six years he has held the rein of the PTFOMS.

I don’t think the same holds for Edu. No offense meant. But I don’t think he even has had the opportunity of heading a press corps. This is no time to put an OJT as head of PTFOMS.

Digging deeper into the rumor of Punay taking over the agency tasked to handle media security, my inside source bared that Briones and Punay are planning to dissolve the PTFOMS and instead replace it with the Presidential Commission on Media Welfare.

And it could be the clincher. As the word welfare is almost synonymous with funding.

But lest they forget, the government is prohibited from extending funds to private individuals or groups, and that is precisely the reason why the Media Welfare fund was deleted from the Media Welfare Act, which incidentally is being pushed hard by Egco for enactment into a law .

By transforming the PTFOMS into PCMA, the source said Punay and Briones will reportly drop its security and investigation aspect and focus on media’s welfare, mainly on financial assistance.

To do that, the two are reportedly eyeing making the PCMA under the Presidential Communications Operations Office. By doing so, the newly-formed office will lose its security and investigation functions as PCOO has no prosecutorial power.

Presently, PTFOMS is directly under the Office of the President and is chaired by the Justice Secretary.

So essentially, the plan of the Punay-Briones tandem might be directly in confrontation with the thrust of the incoming Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla.

The plan, if it pushes through, will make a great recipe for disaster as first and foremost: Placing PTFOMS under the PCOO will greatly diminish its mandate.

Losing its power to investigate and prosecute which is PH commitment under various international treatises will defeat the very purpose of its existence.

There are institutional processes which these people are missing.

I may not be a Duterte fan but I believe this is one of his strongest legacies.

The vast improvement in the government’s handling of the media is lauded in the international media community. Why fix when it ain’t broke? Why reinvent the wheel?

The PTFOMS ‘accomplishments, under Egco’s watch, are simply stellar.

All people have to do is google. Lately, there are black operations or demolition jobs being waged against PTFOMS. We don’t want to surmise, but you do the math in analyzing who might be behind these.

But if there are plans to make PTFOMS a milking cow by transforming it into a welfare office for the media, whoever is behind this may only be courting future criminal and administrative charges.

By the way, with news leaking out Punay is replacing Egco, rumors are also circulating in media groups active in PTFOMS are already threatening to pull out.

I hate to say this, but I don’t think whoever is pushing for this has his or their own interest in mind and not that of the people.

BBM ought to watch his back because he could be surrounded by people who, despite their projections, are the least trusted among practitioners.

And when it comes to reasons why someone is considered least trusted in the media circle, only one reason stands out. Ask any media practitioner.

But knowing Egco, he will just shrug these machinations off and not pay so much attention to them because no one can keep any secret from him.

And surely, he knows how to get back and handle the matter.

As for me, all I want is an assurance we are working in a safe environment given the work we are into.

That’s why I trust the present status and composition of the PTFOMS.

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