DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 December) – A Lumad paramilitary group that has been repeatedly accused of sowing terror in several towns in Surigao del Sur, including the September 1 killing of a director of a Lumad school and two others in Lianga town, did not just send a text message warning media, it also issued a videotaped message warning “media ug politico” that they would be ambushed if they attend the 47th anniversary celebration of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on December 26, a Mindanao celebration usually held in their province.
The 61-second video clip, uploaded ahead of the reported warning via text message addressed only to the media, shows two armed, masked men claiming to be from the Magahat paramilitary group, one of them delivering the warning to all, particularly the media and politicians.
Magahat’s disbandment has been repeatedly sought by various sectors and personalities, including the governor of Surigao del Sur, the Bishop of Tandag, and the senators who conducted a probe on Lumad killings here on October 1 and 2 – Aquilino Pimentel III and Teofisto Guingona III.
The video clip was posted and “shared with public” at 12:53 a.m. on December 23 on the Facebook account of Arthur Jimentez Tariman, convenor of the Victims of Injustice, Criminality and Terrorism in Mindanao (VICTIM), a group that claims to have been collating a list of Lumad victims allegedly killed by the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the CPP and National Democratic Front (NDF).
Tariman’s group brought three Lumad leaders to Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ main headquarters, for a press conference in mid-September where they said the military had nothing to do with the Lumad killings, and blamed the NPA instead.
“Kaming mga pwersa sa Magahat, usa ka mahinungdanong pagapasabot sa tanan, labi na sa mga media ug politico nga dunay planong muapil sa anibersaryo sa Partido Komunista sa Pilipinas. Among giawhag kung kinsa may mutambong sa anibersaryo, among apilon sa pag-ambush kay mao na nagpasabot nga linya sila sa NPA (We, the forces of the Magahat, have an important message to all, especially to media and politicians who plan to attend the anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Those who will attend, let it be known that we will ambush you because you are following the line of the NPA), the armed, masked man on the left side of the screen, said.
“Walay politico o media nga magtungas aron dili maapil sa gyera sa NPA batok armadong lumad sa Magahat. Wala pa mi makabalos sukad nagdaghan gipapamatay sa Lumad kinsa sa pahimuslanon ug pagadaug-daug sa New People’s Army. Dili maglabot-labot ang kasundaluan ug kapulisan kay amo ra kining pakigbangi Lumad kontra NPA. Ayaw ninyo ni ibalewala kining among tingog nga dinaug-daug nga mga lumad. Kinabuhi ang gikuha kinabuhi pud ang bayad” (No politician or media should attend so they will not be part of the war between the NPA and the armed Lumads of Magahat. We have not avenged the killing of our fellow Lumads who were taken advantage of and oppressed by the New People’s Army. The military and police should not get in the way because this is a war of the Lumad against the NPA. Do not ignore the voices of the oppressed Lumad. Life taken should be paid for by another life), he added.
The Senate Committees on Justice and Human Rights, and Cultural Communities’ probe on Lumad killings on October 1 and 2 in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur, ended with the Bishop of Tandag still waiting for answers to critical questions about the “apparent unholy alliance between the military and the paramilitary which the military vehemently denies.”
Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar told the Senate hearing that he is “baffled” why, despite the military’s denials of an alliance, Marcial Belandres, one of the leaders of the Magahat-Bagani and principal suspect in the October 2014 killing of Manobo teacher Henry Alameda and Aldren Dumaguit, was among three persons presented as Datus in a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo on September 15. Belandres was among the three Lumads brought to the camp by Tariman.
Tariman testified before the Senate hearing in Tandag on October 2 that they had a list of 357 Lumads allegedly killed by the NPA.
In his intro to the videotaped message of the Magahat, Tariman said, “the Magahat upped the ante vs NPA and Communist supporters” and followed it with a five-paragraph press release purportedly coming from “PIA-13,” naming Magahat leader Bobby Tejero as source of the warning.
Tejero, his brother Loloy and Garito Layno were charged on September 7 along with 20 John Does, with multiple murder, arson, robbery, grave coercion and grave threats for the September 1 attack in Lianga, Surigao del Sur that killed Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo.
The 61-second videotaped message did not identify the person who spoke as Tejero but merely said “kaming mga pwersa sa Magahat” (we, the forces of the Magahat). But the wearning delivered was consistent with Tejero’s as posted by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in Caraga region or what Tariman cited as “PIA-13.”
The Facebook account of PIA Caraga posted Tejero’s warning, based on a text message it received, on its Facebook account at 2:44 p.m. on December 21.
PIA Caraga regional director Abner Caga told MindaNews Saturday night that before this Facebook posting, Tejero was interviewed by two local radio stations.
The PIA Caraga posting quoted Tejero as saying their (politicians and media) “mere presence in the area is a manifestation of their declaration of support to the CNN organization and a betrayal to the people. We will not hesitate nor show mercy.”
The military refers to the “CPP-NPA-NDF” as “CNN.
The PIA Caraga posting added that the Tejero brothers and Layno “were former NPA rebels and fulltime guerilla warriors for 25 years” and that “they learned the art of killings from the NPAs.”
Tejero was quoted as saying, “as a former guerilla warrior & familiar w/ the area, I know that the CNN cannot guarantee their safety.”
The PIA posting was not accompanied by a video clip from the Magahat.
At 6:57 p.m. also on December 21, PIA Caraga posted this: “In the same development, Magahat leader Bobby Tejero conveyed the message that he & his group have no quarrel/conflict with the people of Caraga & to the other lumad communities. He assured the Caraganons that they will never do any acts that will injure/harm any civilians unlike what the CPP-NPA-NDF (CNN) rebels are doing.”
“Our only enemy are the NPAs & anyone who supports them & not the military & the PNP who are hunting us unrelentlessly. We promise to the people of Caraga that we will continue to fight for as long as their presence is still in our communities,” Tejero was quoted as saying,
The PIA Caraga post added: “Also, Tejero is asking the support of the people to fight ‘with us, & help us destroy the true enemy – the CNN rebels who are exploiting the lumads & benefiting (from) the resources especially the mining companies. This time, the CNN rebels will suffer what they have trained us for.’”
A similar warning, sent as a text message in Cebuano, was passed on to reporters in Davao City on December 24, purportedly warning “all media in Mindanao.” (see other story)
In English, the message reads: “Good day to all media in Mindanao. We are informing the media attending the anniversary of the CPP/NPA/NDF that we will ambush you because … you are following the NPA line. That is why media should not go there so they will not be included in the war. War of the NPA against the Lumad Magahat. … the military and police are not included because this is our conflict (with the NPA).”
The text message was not sent to reporters directly by the message sender who claimed to be Tejero. MindaNews checked with reporters in Davao City who received a text message but they said the message was just forwarded to them. In Cagayan de Oro, reporters did not receive text messages allegedly coming from Tejero but learned of the alleged threat through social media.
Lerma Alingalan of TV-5 Davao said she received the text message at 9:30 p.m. on December 24 from a member of a people’s organization who told her it was also forwarded to them.
In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned in the strongest terms the Magahat’s threat. It cited the threat sent via text message.
It said that notwithstanding the charges filed against Tejero and company, 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,” hence “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,” the statement added.
“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,” the NUJP said, adding it serves 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.”
No celebration of the CPP’s 47th anniversary was monitored in Surigao del Sur on December 26.
No statement has been issued by the revolutionary group but the last time no celebration was held in Surigao del Sur was in 2012, in the aftermatch of superytphoon Pablo which badly hit the Davao and Caraga regions on December 4 that year. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / Mindanews)