ARMM Governor Hataman orders probe of Marawi attack on TV crew

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/27 December) – Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) condemned the attack on an ABS-CBN team in Marawi City last Saturday and ordered the Lanao del Sur police to “investigate this attack and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.”

“We agree that the attack underscores the brazenness of armed groups to target even the media who are only out to do their duty as members of the fourth estate and perform their profession in the name of press freedom,” Hataman said in a statement e-mailed to media outlets Saturday night.

“The regional government of ARMM joins those who are calling to end media violence in the country as we stand with journalists and media organizations against these unacceptable attacks,” Hataman said.

The ARMM comprises the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi and Isabela.

The ABS-CBN news team from Iligan was attacked by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Marawi City after their coverage of a bombed transmission tower in Lanao del Sur Saturday noon.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said the news team –composed of Ronnie Enderes, reporter; Loloy Balansag, cameraman; and Gerry Montecillo, their driver – was chased by the motorcycle-riding gunmen into Bangolo district, the heart of Marawi City.

Enderes is outgoing chair of the NUJP Iligan chapter.

NUJP national director Nonoy Espina said the gunmen fired at the ABS-CBN vehicle shattering its windshield.

“They are all safe but shaken,” Espina said.

Enderes and Balansag have been covering Marawi and Lanao del Sur for several years.

Richel Umel, a member of NUJP Iligan, said Enderes and his companions had just come from Ramain town in Lanao del Sur where they did a follow-up story on the transmission tower of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines which was bombed on Dec. 24.

Umel said that as they entered Marawi City, the news crew noticed two motorcycles following their vehicle.

Sensing danger, Umel said Montecillo honked the horn of their vehicle and blinked the emergency lights to call the attention of residents.

“Still, the gunmen fired at the vehicle when they reached Bangolo district. They were really brazen despite the presence of many people,” Umel said.

Police Superintendent Siegfred Ramos, Lanao del Sur PNP director said investigators found spent caliber .45 empty shells on the street in Bangolo district.

Ramos said they are still conducting an investigation on the incident. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)