By PMT News Team
COTABATO CITY – The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) alongside concerned quarters and supporters of press freedom is rallying the stance of veteran scribe Ali G. Macabalang amid reported recurrence of violent threats in his media practice.
Retired Police Lt. Col. Rechie Duldulao, PTFoMS deputy investigation chief, called up Macabalang on Dec. 7 to get updates on his condition, conveying the task force’s focal attention in helping him ward off pressures and threats.
The PTFoMS, which President Duterte created in 2016 to protect Filipino journalists against impunity, was exerting proactive efforts to ensure the safety of Macabalang in his free media practice, according to Duldulao.
Macabalang, now in his 44th year of full-time media practice, serves as news editor of the Philippine Muslim Today (PMT) and president of the Bangsamoro Press Corps (BPC). He had spent eight years in government media under the Marcos regime, eight years as pioneer correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and 26 years as senior correspondent of the Manila Bulletin.
The PTFoMS and dozens of journalists across Mindanao initially learned of Macabalang’s plight when he revealed it partly during the 7th and final episode of serial webinar on safe media coverage hosted by the task force on Nov. 29.
In his revelation, Macabalang said unidentified culprits broke the window shield of his service vehicle while parked in a hotel here where he stayed after covering a gathering of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Oct. 4.
He said he did not report the attack on his car, thinking that it could be a petty incident that might cause undue alarm among his family when publicized.
But last November 12, he said, an unidentified big man wearing black dress, jacket and helmet barged into his own bedroom inside their residence in Kidapawan City past 3:30 in the morning.
“The suspect could be thinking I was inside the room because my car was visibly seen parked in our compound. He hurriedly left and fled aboard his parked motorcycle when my daughter, who was awake, protested and started to curse him while waking up my sleeping wife,” Macabalang said in his narrative copy furnished with the PTFoMS.
A friend cum usual driver-escort of Macabalang has confirmed seeing the suspicious man peeping at the computer work room of the journalist before fleeing.
Macabalang, who was outside his residence for a meeting with friends and relatives-in-law in another house, let his wife and daughter report the incident to the Kidapawan City police office for blotter on Nov. 20. He also commissioned the installation of CCTV cameras in all strategic sections of their compound three days earlier, it was learned.
A few days after the blotter, in response to a request for investigation by the PTFoMS, Kidapawan City Police Office investigators P/MSgt. Joey Failano and P/SSgt. Robert Hope Agot visited Macabalang’s residence, interviewed him and conducted ocular assessment on the internal and external sections of the journalist’s abode.
In his request-letter, Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, PTFoMS executive director, prescribed for a police assessment of Macabalang’s plight and for the detail of close-in services of police and military elements.
Macabalang said he took the Oct. 4 and Nov. 12 incidents seriously as signs of recurring threats in his profession. He has written a series of stories exposing “fleeting schemes” at the height of campaign for an extension in the transition period of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and in political events prelude to the May 9, 2022 elections.
The 65-year old journalist (63 years old in official records) was a victim of an ambush along Santos Street in this city on March 20, 1995 where he sustained a bullet wound in his nape while driving his service vehicle. He was serving then as Manila Bulletin senior correspondent and executive director of the Bureau of Public Information of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
According to investigations, the ambush (where a lone gunman fired several shots from a .45 cal. Pistol) was related to his past writings in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Manila Bulletin that exposed alleged malpractices in the now defunct ARMM government. His exposes led to the conviction of an ARMM key official in later years for graft.
Prior to the ambush while he was writing for the Daily Inquirer and stringing for the Reuters and Kyodo news wires, Macabalang experienced a physical attack by a politician inside a restaurant here in 1991. He sued the attacker, but the elected regional official-culprit and his clan begged for amicable settlement and paid P40,000 cash indemnity or blood money. (PMT News Team)