Saturday, June 03, 2006

Today, I cried

I haven’t cried in public until today.

I cried because a murdered journalist was laid to rest.

I cried because until now it’s not clear who’s behind the killing.

I cried because I’m as helpless as his family, friends and the poor people who believe in him to solve the murder.

I cried after hearing how poor he was, but he still cared about his colleagues, how he helped the poor who went to him for help, how he brought his friends to a mami house for snacks with his 20 pesos, how he advised his young nephew to always fight for what is right whatever the cost.

Today we buried Fernando ‘Dong’ Batul, a journalist.

Funeral march for radio host may be Palawan's biggest

Outraged and saddened over the spate of killings of their colleagues, journalists from all over the country gathered in Palawan on Saturday to give murdered radio host Fernando "Dong" Batul a fitting send-off.

Various journalists groups joined the funeral march in Puerto Princesa City of the murdered broadcaster, two weeks after he was shot dead in a morning ambush.

“Indeed, it is the supreme irony that the democracy we are supposed to have won back in 1986 has claimed more journalists – 79 thus far – than the 34 lost throughout the whole 14-year Marcos dictatorship," the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, one of the groups that joined the march, said in a statement.

On May 31, members of NUJP’s various chapters nationwide lit candles for their fallen comrades, scoring Malacañang for failing to stop the killings. Journalists around the country also wore black not to mourn or surrender but to signify defiance.

Another group, the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists Inc., said the march to the Puerto Princesa Memorial Park is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in the province’s history.

The FFFJ said the killing of Batul exposed the culture of violence that cost the lives of many Filipino journalists under the Arroyo government.

“Batul’s murder, along with the other cases of slain journalists and attacks against the media, highlighted the government’s inability to protect press freedom in the country," the group said.

Batul, a popular broadcaster in Puerto Princesa City, was shot dead in an early morning ambush on May 22 while he was heading to the Radio Mindanao Network affiliate station DYPR.

Police arrested a rogue policeman whom they linked to the crime. But after that arrest, no other development in the police investigation has been reported

“Given this administration’s generally callous disregard both to the killings – not just of our colleagues but of hundreds of dissenters as well – and to the calls for justice and respect for people’s rights and liberties, we are afraid we have not seen the end of this murderous rampage. But we will not be cowed into mute submission, neither by this government’s indifference nor the dark schemes of those who wish to silence us," the NUJP's statement said.

It said that since 2001, when Gloria Arroyo was catapulted to power, 42 journalists had been killed, the number is more than the combined death toll under the government of her three immediate predecessors.

Other Filipino journalists renewed their call on government for concrete action to end the culture of impunity that played a role in the killing of 59 of their colleagues since 1986.

Various media groups signed a statement that scored government for putting further insult to the already badly-injured press freedom in the country, as one of Batul’s killers turned out to be a policeman “whose task is to protect the people, including the journalists.”

The Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists Inc., one of the signatories to the statement, said the least the government can do is to pursue the case against Batul’s killer.

Other signatories to the statement included Redmond Batario (Center for Community Journalism and Development); Sheila Coronel (PCIJ); Danilo Gozo (Philippine News); Rachel Khan (Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility); Rey Hulog (Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas); and Jose Pavia (Philippine Press Institute). GMANews.TV

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