A HARD-hitting radio commentator was killed this morning on his way to work, in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
Fernando Batul, who was on his way to air his 6.30 am program over dyPR, was shot in different parts of his body including the face, chest and back; police found 12 gunshot wounds in all.
He would have turned
35 37 on Wednesday.
The police said the two assailants, who were on board a motorcycle and wearing helmets, ambushed Batul’s vehicle some 100 meters from the radio station.
“He’s the most hard hitting and popular radio personality in the province,” says Yasmin Arquiza, founding editor of community newspaper, Bandillo ng Palawan. “I feel really bad because he’s one of the very few allies of Bandillo in exposing anomalies here.”
Arquiza says Batul was not only hard-hitting with his exposés and commentaries, but was also hugely popular with radio audiences in the province.
Exactly four weeks ago, two grenades were lobbed at Batul’s home, both of which were found and safely detonated by the police. Along with the grenades, whose safety pins had already been removed before being placed on their yard and balcony, was a note warning him against continuing his exposés.
Prior to the attack, Batul had been discussing the condition of several contract workers from Palawan who had been allegedly maltreated in Taiwan. The Puerto Princesa City Public Employment and Services Office had facilitated the employment of the said workers.
Following Batul’s death this morning, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn said in an interview with dyPR, that he was saddened by the death of the broadcaster. Hagedorn had also been the subject of some of Batul’s commentaries.
Bandillo ng Palawan quoted the mayor as having said, “Ever since ang gusto ko ang proteksiyon ni Dong Batul dahil ‘pag may nangyari sa taong yan, ako talaga ang pagbibintangan at hindi magiging maganda ito sa image ng Puerto Princesa sa panahong kino-condemn ang pagpatay sa mga journalists.”
The mayor offered a P500,000-bounty for the immediate capture of the suspects. He also said he will not hesitate to relieve police officers from their posts if they fail to solve the case of Batul’s killing.
Batul’s death comes after other incidents of violent attacks against media workers. International media groups last week issued yet another call for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to “make a concerted effort to protect and defend the rights and safety of journalists.”
In particular, media organizations are closely monitoring the progress in the trial of four suspects in the 2005 slaying in Sultan Kudarat of journalist and corruption whistle-blower, Marlene Garcia-Esperat.
As the trial resumes today, media groups are urging Mrs. Arroyo to make sure that justice is carried out for the killing.
The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) counts some 57 journalists who have been killed in the line of duty since the restoration of democracy in 1986. Palawan’s Batul is the 58th, if proven to have been killed because of his radio work.
In a study of media killings, released late last year, CMFR noted that none of the twenty-five Filipino journalists killed from 2000 to 2005 belonged to a national news organization; most of them were provincial broadcasters with local radio and television, either doing freelance reporting or buying block time.
At the time of their deaths, said the CMFR, those journalists, like Batul in Palawan, were reporting on anomalies in their communities.
CMFR found that since 1986, only two cases of journalists’ killings have led to convictions: those of, one, a radio station deskman in 1996 and two, the publisher-editor of a local newspaper in 1991. In both cases, no mastermind was ever found and prosecuted.
Other findings of the CMFR study include the following:
- 19 of the 25 slain journalists from 2000 to 2005 were killed either in their homes or offices, or on their way home.
- 21 of the 25 killed were radio or television broadcasters.
- The most dangerous regions were Calabarzon (IVA) and Zamboanga (IX), with the highest numbers of killings.
- 17 of the 21 broadcasters killed did not have accreditation from the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), either failing to renew their license or failing the accreditation exam.
- Only five of all these killings have cases in court.
While the Philippines has been named “most murderous of all”, journalists are vulnerable to violence in many other parts of the world.
The Commitee to Protect Journalists studied more than five years of death records from 2000, and found that the vast majority of the 190 journalists killed on duty worldwide did not die in crossfire or while covering dangerous assignments. Instead, six of every ten of them were hunted down and murdered in retaliation for their work.