Esperat, 45, was shot dead by two gunmen in front of her home after sending her bodyguards home for Easter. She had been under police protection because of articles she wrote in the weekly "Midland Review" which sharply criticised local corruption.
Shortly before her death, Esperat had written about nepotism in the town of Sultan Sa Barongis and the involvement of the Department of Agriculture's local office in the embezzlement of large sums of money, according to Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).
Esperat was a former chemist at the Department of Agriculture who became one of its most potent critics, reports the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. She accused the department of being one of the country's most corrupt government agencies. In the last 10 years, she had filed dozens of lawsuits ranging from the smuggling of agricultural products to the overpricing of farm inputs and the siphoning of public funds intended for farmers into private hands.
President Gloria Arroyo has pledged a "thorough investigation" into Esperat's murder. RSF says it will visit the country from 7-13 April to conduct its own investigation into the murders of journalists.
The organisation says six journalists were killed in the Philippines because of their work in 2004, while 10 survived murder attempts. Seven other journalists were killed in circumstances that have not yet been clearly linked to their profession.
Visit these links:
- The Philippines' "Erin Brockovich": http://www.pcij.org/stories/2005/marlene.html
- Marilyn Esperat on Living Under Police Protection: http://www.pcij.org/imag/FirstPerson/witness.html
- Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility: http://www.cmfr.com.ph
- National Union of Journalists of the Philippines: http://www.nujp.org/
- Report on Press Freedom in the Philippines: http://www.cpj.org/attacks04/asia04/phil.html