The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemns in the strongest terms the brazen death threat issued by the Magahat militia against journalists intending to cover the 47th anniversary celebrations of the Communist Party of the Philippines in Mindanao on December 26.
Colleagues in the south reported receiving a message on Christmas Eve that said:
“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 media in Mindanao, we would like to inform you that we will target for ambush whoever in media will attend the anniversary of the CPP/NPA/NDF. Because anyone attending the anniversary is a sympathizer of the NPA, which is why media should not attend to avoid being involved in the war. The war between the NPA and the armed lumad Magahat … the military and police have nothing to do with this because this is a fight between the tribe and the NPA. Thank you very much. #For your information Bobby Tejero commander of the Magahat … please spread to the whole of Mindanao.)
It is on record that Bobby Tejero is one of the three identified Magahat members charged for the September 1 murders of Emerito Samarca, administrator of the award-winning ALCADEV, and Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo, in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, which triggered the mass evacuation of lumad in the province.
It is also on record that, notwithstanding military denials of any links to the Magahat, soldiers preceded the arrival of the militia in the community where the three were killed and actually witnessed the murders but did nothing to prevent these or arrest the perpetrators.
It is likewise on record that, notwithstanding the military denials, many quarters, including Surigao del Sur officials led by Governor Johnny Pimentel, have confirmed that the Magahat was organized, trained and armed by the Army. In fact, Pimentel has described the Magahat and similar militias as a “monster” that he has demanded be “disarmed, disbanded or killed” by their creators, the military.
Just as it is on record that Marcos Bocales, who the Lianga killers acknowledged as their leader, was not only hosted by the Armed Forces at a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo following the Lianga murders but was later escorted by military officers to a hearing at the
House of Representatives where he justified the killing of Samarca.
And again, it is on record that, notwithstanding the charges filed against Bobby Tejero, he and the other suspects in the Lianga murders not only continue to operate brazenly in Surigao del Sur, they often do so together with the military.
Thus any threat from Bobby Tejero and the Magahat against not only the media but anyone else should be treated seriously.
That he can actually feel confident enough to threaten the media so brazenly can only mean one thing — that Bobby Tejero and the Magahat either believe they can do so and get away with it, or they have been assured that they can do so and get away with it.
And, going by the record, it appears clear where the assurance comes from. For this is the only explanation for how the Magahat can continue to openly operate despite the serious criminal charges its leaders and members face.
It is a shame that we have to remind our own government and the forces under its command, who are supposed to be our protectors, that journalists and the work they do are protected by our Constitution and our laws.
Therefore, we serve notice that we will hold government and its security forces accountable for any harm arising from Tejero’s threat that may befall our colleagues who cover the rebel anniversary.