World Communications Day Dedicated To Slain Journalist

2006-05-26 00:00:00

Bishop Pedro Arigo of Puerto Princesa has dedicated World Communications Day on May 28 in his western Philippine vicariate to a slain radio broadcaster active in Church movements.

Father Eugene Elivera, director of the local Church´s Social Action and Special Concerns office, told UCA News May 26 that all Masses that Sunday will be dedicated to Fernando Batul, the slain broadcaster. Local Churches celebrate the annual World Communications Day at different times.

During Masses that Sunday parish priests are directed to read Bishop Arigo´s May 23 pastoral letter on the radioman´s killing, Father Elivera added.

Batul, 37, was shot May 22 by two men on a motorcycle while on his way to work at DYPR radio station in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan province, 580 kilometers southwest of Manila.

Three days later, Palawan Chief Superintendent Raul Genio told reporters in Manila that Batul, in his radio program, often criticized police officer Aaron Golipardo for "gun-toting." Genio arrested Golipardo after witnesses identified the police officer as one of the two men involved in the shooting. Batul, a former vice mayor, also criticized Mayor Edward Hagedorn of Puerto Princesa.

Bishop Arigo, whose vicariate serves Palawan province, issued a pastoral letter the day after Batul was killed. In a copy sent to UCA News, the bishop condemned "in the strongest possible terms the heinous murder." He demanded justice for Batul "and for all martyrs in the media."

He included Batul among "the ranks of media practitioners martyred for the truth and their crusade against corruption."

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines lists Batul as the 42nd media person to be slain since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed office in 2001.

Bishop Arigo noted that Batul was the first victim from his vicariate, and cited reports saying the broadcaster was the sixth media practitioner killed this year.

On April 24, two grenades were thrown into Batul´s home in Puerto Princesa but failed to detonate, the union reported. The attackers left behind a letter written in red ink threatening Batul to "hold his tongue" or die.

"How can journalists perform their role in an atmosphere of constant fear and violence?" Father Elivera asked.

In his pastoral letter, Bishop Arigo wrote that the Batul killing "violated and shattered the culture of peace of the province." He called the radioman´s murder "an assault not only on the person of Dong (Batul) but also on press freedom, on truth and on clean governance he was advocating."

Ordinary people who aired their grievances and concerns through the radio program are among those violated, added the bishop, who described Batul´s program as "fearless and hard-hitting commentary."

The bishop called on authorities to solve "as soon as possible" the killing and give justice to the aggrieved. "There seems to be a grand sinister devilish plot to silence media men made of stuff like Dong´s and to scare others from exposing the truth and fighting corruption," Bishop Arigo said.

The bishop has led evening Mass after the killing and appealed to people in his homilies to "not let Dong´s death be in vain." He also offered the chancery at Immaculate Conception Cathedral as the venue for Batul´s wake.

Father Elivera described Batul as "very active" in Church movements and religious groups, including Singles for Christ and Opus Dei.


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