With the presence of well-entrenched laws described as restraints in the exercise of free speech, accountability systems for Philippine media are not as robust as campaigns for media freedom. ‘Accountability systems’ in this setting, for the most part, take the form of legal measures or prohibitions (e.g. libel laws and other laws within the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines). For this reason, the media has been wary of political imperatives masking under the guise of ‘checking media responsibility’, as they believe that such initiatives can, as proven by a history of martial rule, be used to silence the press.
Some media networks and newspapers, such as ABS-CBN, have their internal ombudsman who deals with journalism ethics complaints, especially those which gained traction from the audience (e.g. viral in social media).
Definitely more active and visible than the in-house ombudsmen are the organisations that lean more to a monitorial role, such as the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and ‘Kapisanan ng Mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas’ or KBP (Association of Philippine Broadcasters). The CMFR evaluates media coverage and even calls out cases of media corruption or unethical practice. In many instances, a CMFR representative was invited in television news programmes to speak on issues of media freedom and responsibility.
The KBP, meanwhile, ‘established its own system of self-regulation and standards for radio and television stations in the country’, which binds – but only to some extent – its 121 member networks or corporations. However, the CMFR has expressed doubts on the future of self-regulation in Philippine media, citing the feeble penalties imposed by the KBP on its erring members (CMFR, 2011).
The Philippine Press Institute (PPI), as well as the KBP, developed a code of ethics: the ‘Philippine Journalist’s Code of Ethics’ that has been used and studied in journalism schools. However, in actual practice, the interpretation of these codes leaves gray areas as the media landscape – and the working conditions of journalists – is far from ideal.