In a statement, the Urgent Appeals Programme of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said it was deeply concerned with the safety of activists Shamroud Adulaziz, Blanche Yamba, Bill Andres and Juvy Hornales, who reportedly received death threats on their mobile phones via the short message service or SMS last July 5.
The four are all working as spokespersons of their organizations. Adulaziz works for the human rights group Karapatan or the Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights, Yamba for Gabriela women's party, Andres for the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and Hornales for the youth group Anak Bayan.
In their report to AHRC, the four activists noted that the threats were purportedly sent by a group called "AralSaMasa" using mobile number +639066677136.
The message reportedly read: “MGA SUPPORTERS NG CPP-NPA-NDF MALAPIT NA MTPOS ANG ARAW NYO – AralSaMasa” (Supporters of CPP-NPA-NDF your days are numbered- AralSaMasa).
CPP-NPA-NDF stands for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army-National Democratic Front, a Maoist rebel group that has waged a rebellion for almost forty years. Several organizations, including those of the four activists, had been tagged by the national government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as fronts for the communist movement.
This reporter tried several times to make a call on the mobile number that supposedly sent the threatening messages but it indicated a connection error.
"AralSaMasa sent similar SMS messages to activists George and Maricel Vigo (husband and wife) two weeks before they were killed," the AHRC claimed.
Last June 19, unidentified suspects gunned down the Vigo couple, who were both
former journalists, while on their way home aboard a motorcycle in Barangay Singao in Kidapawan City.
Police and military officials here have remained mum regarding the supposed existence of the "AralSaMasa" group, which incidentally rhymes with the name of an anti-communist vigilante group "Alsa Masa" based in Davao City in the 80s.
But last week, local news reports came out detailing a supposed intelligence report about the existence of a “death squad” that is reportedly plotting to kill several leaders of militant organizations based in this city and the nearby provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani.
Three of the four threatened activists already met with City Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr. last Tuesday to discuss the matter.
But the AHRC, through Executive Director Basil Fernando, urged Acharon and Councilor Eduardo Leyson III, who chairs the city council’s peace and order committee, to immediately act on the matter by directing authorities to conduct an investigation.
"The AHRC reported on a number of activists who are facing serious threats. What is common amongst them is the failure and inaction of the authorities, in particular the police, to ensure their safety and security," he said.
The group urged authorities to provide the necessary security to the four activists and investigate the existence of "AralSaMasa."
"An independent and credible investigation must be conducted to identify those responsible for these threats. Authorities must exhaust all effective means of investigation to identify those responsible for plotting and threatening to attack these four activists," the AHRC added.
The AHRC said it has sent letters of appeal regarding the plight of the four activists to President to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Region 12 Director Rosalinda Tolosa, CHR Commissioner Purificacion Quisumbing, Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Calderon, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Local Governments Secretary Ronaldo Puno and the offices of the Special Representative of the United Nations (UN) Secretary General For Human Rights Defenders and the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women based in Geneva, Switzerland. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)