By Ben Rosario
Lawmakers on Thursday called on the government to leave no stones unturned in pursuing the perpetrators of the slay attempt on hard-hitting radio commentator Benjie Abdul Caballero in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat.
Maguindanao Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu of Maguindanao said Caballero was shot as he and families of victims of the Maguindanao massacre are awaiting the verdict on the multiple murder charges filed against former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., son of former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr.
“I strongly condemn the shooting of Benjie! It is utterly uncalled for, unnecessary, and absolutely unjust!” Rep. Mangudadatu said.
Mangudadatu said Caballero has been very supportive of his administration during his term as governor and in his current term as Maguindanao congressman.
Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite called for an independent probe into the murder attempt, noting that the incident could be work-related.
“We know that the Radyo Ni Juan network is a media outfit that is hard-hitting against corruption, human rights violations, and government anomalies, and this may be the reason for the attack,” said Zarate, a deputy minority leader in the Lower House.
Himself a former journalist, Zarate said the attack against Caballero is another proof of the correctness of the Committee to Protect Journalists report that said that the Philippines is in the top five most dangerous countries for journalists with 41 cases of media assassinations without resolution since August 2009.
“Since Mindanao was placed under martial law attacks against media and government critics have intensified,” said Zarate.
Gaite, on the other hand, noted that the violence committed against media persons “are being done with impunity.”
The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) disclosed that Caballero suffered five gunshot wounds when an unidentified gunman fired at him while waiting for a tricycle ride in Poblacion, Tacurong, the other day.
A press statement issued by PTFoMS Executive Director Joel Sy Egco indicated that politics could have been behind the slay attempt.
Quoting sources, the PTFoMS press statement also claimed that the slay attempt may have also something to do with the victim’s “financing business”.
“Let us all pray for Benjie’s survival. Arnel Palada, a friend who is at the hospital, told me that Benjie is still fighting and he will undergo surgery anytime. Packs of blood had arrived at the hospital. We are now investigating this case and we will get to the bottom of this and get his attackers,” said Egco.