PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered an investigation of the arson attack on the printing plant of a Manila-based tabloid, the presidential palace said yesterday, as it condemned the assault.

“We cannot allow this thing to happen against any member of the Fourth Estate,” presidential spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo told reporters, referring to the Abante News Group.

“The President will certainly be directing a thorough investigation of this case and we will prosecute those behind this dastardly act,” he added.

On Monday before dawn, four hooded armed men entered the tabloid’s premises in Parañaque City by overpowering an unarmed security guard. The men left on motorcycles after pouring gasoline on the building and setting it on fire, Mr. Panelo said.

Mr. Duterte has ordered the Presidential Task Force on Media Security to probe the attack, Mr. Panelo said.

The task force will go to the crime scene and has sought police help to help solve the crime, he added.

“This attack on the core of press production is targeted at the entire journalistic profession in the Philippines,” Daniel Bastard, head of global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders’ Asia-Pacific desk, said in a statement.

“We therefore urge the Presidential Task Force on Media Security to order a thorough, independent investigation to identify those responsible for this assault on press freedom,” the watchdog said.

“The prevailing impunity for this kind of violation can no longer be tolerated.”

The Philippines remained an unsafe place for journalists, ranking 134th out of 180 countries in the watchdog’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index. — Arjay L. Balinbin and Charmaine A. Tadalan