A spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division said local terrorists of the New People’s Army had created a monster in the Magahat Bagani—one they could no longer control.
In a statement, Captain Joe Patrick Martinez of the Philippine Army said that a text message warning local journalists that they could be ambushed if they covered the 47th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on Dec. 26 had caused alarm on the part of local media practitioners.
“Magahat Bagani force is composed of mostly NPA rebels. NPA taught them to do violence and they should not be surprised if the Magahat know how to sow threat,” Martinez said.
The text message was purportedly sent by Bobby Tejero of the Magahat militia.
“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 text message read in part.
Martinez said it was the NPA terrorists who “know the Magahat very well because they taught them.”
He added that it was only the AFP that is concerned about the welfare of its media partners.
But the Magahat Bagani is perceived as a military-backed militia force accused of committing violence against the lumad—indigenous people of Mindanao.
Tejero and his brother Loloy and Garilo Laylo have been charged with murder in relation to the deaths of lumad school executive director Emerito Samarca and two other tribal leaders, Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on Sept. 1. No arrests have been made.
Violence has driven thousands of lumad from their homes to seek refuge in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has condemned the Magahat Bagani for its threat against journalists and expressed concern over the growing confidence of the militia group.
A left-leaning party-list group, Bayan Muna, through its Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, said: “That these barefaced threats are issued while a mutual ceasefire and suspension of military operations were declared by the government and the rebels, smack of brazen impunity and disrespect of civilian authorities.”