Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Filipino Labor Rights Journalist Assassinated

Of the innumerable tragedies in the Philippines, the biggest one may be that there is no sign of better things to come. Today let's remember Dong Batul, a journalist who was killed by gunmen earlier this week on May 22. He was concerned with mistreated workers, including some in Taiwan, and the plight of the poor. Excerpts of various emails, news releases and reports (all via the APMM) tell the story:
...another Filipino radio announcer was shot dead by motorcycle riding assassins in Palawan.

His name is Fernando “Dong” Batul. Among his exposes was the situation of Filipino seafarers from Palawan who passed through a Local Government Unit placement agency in that province and who were deployed to Taiwan. These persons are now housed in Hope Center and joined our later protest activities in MECO and have become members of Migrante.

From an article on INQ7, a news web collaboration by major print and broadcast media in the Philippines.

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY-- Months ago, he bought a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Stop Killing Journalists” from a colleague, not knowing that he would later be counted among the long list of slain media persons.

Fernando “Dong” Batul, 36, a commentator of local radio station dyPR and a former vice mayor of this city, was shot dead by two men on a motorcycle at 6:35 a.m. yesterday on Valencia Street here.

He was driving his multi-cab on his way to work, which was 50 meters from the site of the ambush, Palawan police chief Senior Superintendent Elpidio de Asis said.

Batul suffered 12 bullet wounds -- four in the face, four in the chest, three in the back and one in the side, said Senior Inspector Jane Cordero. Police recovered four slugs from a .45-cal. pistol.

He was the 79th journalist killed in the Philippines since the ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

Last week after a journalist was beaten by a local official and a photographer was murdered, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists renewed its concern about the safety of media people in the Philippines.

It said that the situation had gone “from bad to worse.”

Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) has said in Paris that the Philippines is the most dangerous place for journalists after war-torn Iraq.

Batul, who earned the moniker “Bastonero ng Bayan,” was on his way to host his program “Bastonero” at the dyPR station owned by Palawan Broadcasting Corp. when he was attacked.

A witness reported that the gunmen, on a blue Honda XRM motorcycle, were wearing dark helmets, De Asis said.

Batul had been receiving death threats. A month ago, two grenades were thrown at his house but did not explode. The attacker left a note saying “it kills to be too talkative.”


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