DAVAO CITY — A progressive partylist lawmaker strongly condemned the paramilitary group in Surigao del Sur after issuing threats against members of the media who are covering the anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines this Saturday.

The paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani issued the threat through a text message from someone who identified himself as Bobby Tejero, commander of the group. He said journalists who will cover the anniversary will be “ambushed”.

Tejero was also among the suspect of the killings in Lianga town in Surigao del Sur.

“That these barefaced threats are issued while a mutual ceasefire and suspension of military operations were declared by the government and the rebels, smack of brazen impunity and disrespect of civilian authorities,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said.

A former journalist himself from 1987 to 2012, Zarate said: “While a local court has already issued warrants of arrests against Tejero and his cohorts, they continue to sow terror in the hinterland villages of Surigao del Sur without the police and the military doing decisively to stop and neutralize them.”

“While the police and the military in the area appears to be inutile in stopping the atrocities of Tejeros group, the already growing humanitarian crisis in Surigao del Sur is ironically responded by the government with the deployment of even more soldiers in the province,”  Zarate said.

“This is not just an affront to the freedom of the press,  but a clear proof of lawlessness running amuck, particularly in Mindanao,” he said.

Zarate said the threat of Tejero has “the same degree of impunity that resulted to the infamous 2009 Ampatuan massacre in Maguindanao.”

The massacre claimed the lives of 58 people, including 32 journalists on November 23, 2009. The case is considered by journalists as the “single most violent incident in the history of Philippine media”. No perpetrator has been convicted yet.

Last year, a global media watchdog has ranked the Philippines as the third worst spot where journalists have been murdered without a single perpetrator being convicted.

This year, the Philippines is on the fourth spot according to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2015 Global Impunity Index.

The Philippines got a 0.444 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants this year from last year’s 0.527 rating.

“At least 44 murders have taken place since September 2005 with complete impunity; seven have occurred under the current administration of President Benigno Aquino III. Justice for the 32 media victims and 26 others slaughtered in the 2009 massacre in Maguindanao appears more elusive than ever,” said CPJ in its report “Getting Away With Murder” which was published in October 8, 2015.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines here also condemned the threat and challenged the authorities to arrest the members of the paramilitary group.

Jefry Tupas, chairperson of NUJP Davao also called the threat as “an act of terrorism.”

“But what is more deplorable is the fact that members of Magahat are attack dogs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and it seems that the (Armed Forces of the Philippines) is not doing anything about this than to tolerate it,” said Tupas.

Zarate also called for President Benigno Aquino III to “immediately issue an order to disband and disarm these paramilitary groups and to use the full force of the law to bring these criminals to the bar of justice.”

“Otherwise, we will hold the Aquino government, particularly the police and the AFP that created this Bagani Magahat group if any harm is inflicted on any journalist performing his duty or to any person vilified by the said groups.” (davaotoday.com)

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