IN THE midst of Cebu Press Freedom Week, one of the Duterte administration’s officials challenged journalists to report on “the plight of our poor brothers and sisters” in parts of the Visayas.

“I appeal to you to pick this as a challenge. Report their conditions. In doing so, you give your brother government a guide on how to draft policies that will address their predicaments,” Presidential Assistant-Visayas Michael Dino said in the assembly yesterday of the Cebu Federation of Beat Journalists (CFBJ).

After visiting Samar, Leyte, Bohol and Negros Occidental, Dino said he saw first-hand the conditions of the poor in some Visayan areas.

“But I noticed that their stories are left unreported,” added Dino, who was a businessman before he accepted an appointment to join President Rodrigo Duterte’s official family.

Next month, Dino said, he intends to visit Siquijor and Negros Oriental. Part of his office’s mandate is to bridge the gap between Malacañang and the Visayas.

“For me, your job is solemn. Why? Because like the three branches of government, your powers and duties as members of the press and of the media are enshrined in the 1987 Constitution,” he told the CFBJ.

“Like the government, you are also doing public service. Your kind of service is also important because you are the watchdogs who will document the affairs of your brother government and report these to the people,” Dino said.

He pointed out that nine out of every 10 Filipinos today are crying out for change.

“That’s the reason why we see some changes in government, particularly in the fight against criminality and corruption. In this cry for change, the media is not only acting as the state’s ‘brother’ but as an impartial conduit for that change to happen,” Dino said.

(Research firm Pulse Asia reported last July that 91 percent of its respondents—or roughly nine out of every 10-expressed trust in President Duterte. About eight percent were undecided and only 0.2 percent expressed no trust. The survey took place from July 2 to 8, within the first two weeks of the Duterte administration. It polled 1,200 respondents and had an error margin of plus-minus three percent.)

Dino also remarked on the significance of the annual Cebu Press Freedom Week. “Only in Cebu do the people celebrate freedom of speech and of the press,” he said.

His audience, the CFBJ, is a federation of 11 media organizations.

Fr. Randolph “Randy” Figuracion, rector of Lourdes Parish in Punta Princesa, Cebu City, said in his invocation that apart from celebrating, the week also offers practitioners the chance to “reflect on the important role writers and journalists play in making a difference for our country.”

Fr. Figuracion also handles a program over DYRF radio.

“Father God, bless all media practitioners: newspaper writers, journalists, radio reporters in radio and television,” he said. “Make them aware that more than just a profession, they have a vocation to be agents for the communication of truth justice, peace and love.”