A local radio reporter was killed a couple days ago.

Well, this is the Philippines, and it is election time. The prominent families are running their sons/wives/friends to run the provinces, and the pork barrel politics goes not to fatten taxpayers in the district, but disappears quietly, and locals just figure it is lining someone’s pocket.

It is so bad that the Manila Bulletin, a supporter of President Arroyo, had an editorial condemning government corruption, writing with typical Filipino irony:

RADIO reporter Mark Palacios, 41, was found dead Wednesday in Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija. His body bore marks of torture — broken jaw and teeth, deep bruises and gunshot wounds in different parts of the body. Mark was reporter for Radyo ng Bayan, a government-run station.
PNP officers provided the lead as to the killers’ motive: “Policemen’s involvement in crimes and misuse of pork barrel for the purchase of fertilizer by politicians.” This fertilizer item has caused untold suffering to many government officials and politicians — senators especially.

The mention of fertilizer has a double meaning. The first is obviously a joke. The second is an ongoing scandal (one of many) that embarass the Arroyo administration.

And at the forefront of the investigation are the police reporters and local radio talk shows, which are in the local dialects and sometimes, instead of hinting with irony, actually name names and accuse who’s who.

This article has the background. Essentially,  700 million pesos (essentially 14million dollars) in a fertilizer fund that was supposed to help poor farmers get better crops disappeared. The rumor was that it disappeared into a certain politician’s campaign chest, and given out as rewards to those who helped this politician get elected.

But when the Senate asked the man in charge of the fund to testify, he refused, and then he disappeared–to the USA. Luckily, the Senate here had warned the embassy to revoke his visa, so he was picked up and detained in the USA, and prefers to stay there in detention than return and spill the beans.

Reporters sans frontiers notes that this is not the only one who had reason to get rid of a pesky reporter:

He was known for reporting on corruption and, at the time of his death, was investigating cases of abuse of authority by local officials and policemen. As a Citizens Crime Watch activist, he had also helped the police track down criminals.

Yet local politicians are pointing at each other, and the fact that two other reporters involved in investigating corruption concerning drugs and illegal logging south of here survived an attack in the last week only makes suspicion stronger. This is, after all, an election year.

I have no opinion on any of these things. My husband, who spent thirty years in America, has little patience with the oligarchy that runs the place.

The Philippines has a hard working population who has to go elsewhere to find jobs because the corruption makes the country less attractive than other Asian states.

And the ones who suffer are, of course, the poor, whose benefits are denied when the funds are diverted.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the Philippines.

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