DAVAO CITY – A paramilitary-group accused of killings and threatening indigenous peoples in Mindanao has allegedly issued a threat against members of the media who will be covering the anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on Saturday.
The threat came from a text message claiming that he is Bobby Tejero, leader of the Magahat Bagani.
The text message reportedly read:
“Maayong adlaw sa tanang media sa mindanao, among ipahibalo nga kung kinsa man ang magtambong sa anibersaryo sa CPP/NPA/NDF nga taga media among apilon ug ambush. Kay kun mutambong sa maong anibersaryo nagpasabot nga linya sa NPA, mao ng kinahanglan walay magtungas nga media arun dili maapil sa gira. Gira nga NPA batok sa armadong lumad MAGAHAT…walay labot ang kasundalohan ug mga police ky amo ra kining bangi TRIBU bersus NPA. daghan salamat!! #Nagpahibalo Bobby Tejero commander sa MAGAHAT… Palihog ipakalat sa tibook mindanao.”
(Good day to all the media in Mindanao. We would like to inform that members of the media who will be attending the anniversary of the CPP/NPA/NDF will be included in our ambuscades. Because If those who attend during the said anniversary means he/she has a connection with the NPA, that’s why there should be no media during the event to avoid being caught in the war. War of the armed lumad Magahat against the NPA… The military and the police have nothing to do with this because this is a conflict between the tribe against the NPA. Thank you! #For information Bobby Tejero commander of MAGAHAT… Please spread to whole Mindanao.)
Bobby Tejero is among the suspects identified by witnesses in killing two tribal leaders and the school administrator of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development or Alcadev, Emerito Samarca. The killing happened last September 1 in Lianga town, Surigao del Sur in front of village residents. The two tribal leaders were Dionel Campos of Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu) and his cousin Datu Bello Sinzo.
The victims were tagged as NPA supporters, while the Alcadev school was branded as “an NPA school”.
Thousands of residents flee the community after the killing as the Magahat members threatened to massacre civilians. The evacuees are still staying at the Tandag City Provincial Sports Complex until now.
Charges have already been filed against murder suspects identified as Bobby Tejero, Loloy Tejero and Garito Layno. Yet no arrest has been made as of press time.
The AFP-PNP Press Corps has already called on its members to be “extra careful” on covering the event.
“Though the text message supposedly coming from Bobby Tejero, leader of Magahat Bagani, have not been verified as true, it is of the essence that all members are enjoined to do precautionary measures,” said Ben Tesiorna, Press Corps president.
Tesiorna added that the authorities “have already been informed of the threat”.
“Though we could not restrain you against doing your job, thus we are just appealing to you to ensure your safety and security first and foremost. We do not want a repeat of the Maguindanao massacre. Always remember guys that no story is worth dying for,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Davao Chapter said the threat is “deplorable”.
“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 AFP is not doing anything about this than to tolerate it,” said Jefry Tupas, chairperson of NUJP Davao.
“That it threatened to ambush journalists displays the brazenness of this group. The AFP, the Aquino administration, should be made answerable for the murderous existence of Magahat. Clearly, this is an act of terrorism,” he said.
The Army has denied the accusations that they are responsible in the operation of the paramilitary group.
Germelina Lacorte, secretary general of NUJP Davao also said the existence of the paramilitary group adds to the climate of impunity in the country.
“We dare the authorities to arrest the Magahat-Bagani group, which only perpetuate the culture of impunity in this country. Failure to arrest them only confirms that the government is using this group as a counterinsurgency strategy, while washing their hands off any responsibility over the crimes that the group commits,” she said.
Lacorte said groups such as the Magahat-Bagani “don’t have any reason to exist in a democratic society.” (davaotoday.com)