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Radio journalist killed following reports on crimes of police and politicians

(CMFR/IFEX) - On 18 April 2007 at about 6:00 a.m. (local time), a police reporter for the government-run radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan was found dead in Mapalad Village, Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija (about 200 km north of Manila).

Carmelo "Mark" Palacios, 41, bore bruises and gunshot wounds on the chin and back. His jaw was also broken. Senior Supt. Allen Bantolo, who heads the investigation, said the killers "smashed [Palacios'] face with a very hard object."

"It seems that his killers were very mad at him," observed Police Director Geary Barias, chief of Task Force Usig, a special police unit investigating extrajudicial killings.

Bantolo said that Palacios must have "earned the ire of scallywag policemen and politicians," on whose crimes Palacios had reported. Palacios, who headed the Citizens' Crime Watch (an anti-crime group based in Nueva Ecija) had also done a series of reports on the alleged misuse of a congressman's pork barrel. He had also helped solve several local crimes by providing leads to the police.

"It is too early to make conclusions at this point in the investigation," added Barias. "Neither do we want to speculate on the possible motive."

Palacios was last seen on 17 April at around 5:00 p.m. with an unidentified man near police headquarters in Cabanatuan City. Residents of Sitio Uno, where Palacio's body was found, claimed that at around 9:30 p.m. they noticed an unknown vehicle manoeuvring that, after a few minutes, sped away. Investigators believe Palacios was killed between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m.

Palacios is the second journalist to be killed in 2007 in the Philippines. Hernani Pastolero Jr., a newspaper publisher, was gunned down in Mindanao on 19 February 2007.

Thirty-one journalists have been killed in the line of duty in the Philippines since 2001, when then-Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became President.

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