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Grenades found inside radio journalist's home

(CMFR/IFEX) - A hard-hitting commentator and his family escaped certain death when two live grenades failed to explode inside their residence in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, 586 kilometers south of Manila, on 24 April 2006.

Fernando "Dong" Batul is a commentator for Palawan-based dyPR radio station. Together with his sister, he found the first grenade lying on their balcony. Later, the police found a second grenade in their yard. The safety pins had already been removed.

Along with the grenades, a letter penned in red ink was found at the gate of Batul's house warning him to "hold his tongue or else his family would suffer harsh consequences."

More than 10 of Batul's family members were inside the house when the incident occurred.

Local police bomb and explosives division head Alejo Acosta and his group immediately responded to Batul's call for help and safely detonated the grenades in the yard. Thus far, police have not arrested any suspect in the incident.

Acosta said that if the grenades had exploded, the force of the blast would have been enough to blow up the entire house and kill all the people inside. He added that the devices could have exploded anytime, if exposed to strong vibration, or if someone had stepped on them.

Batul attributed the attack on his family to local officials who were offended by his uncompromising remarks in dyPR's morning program "Bastonero."

Prior to the attack, Batul had been discussing the condition of several contract workers from Palawan who had been allegedly maltreated in Taiwan. The Puerto Princesa City Public Employment and Services Office had facilitated the employment of the said workers.

Despite the attack, Batul said he will not hesitate to criticise local officials and discuss sensitive issues on the air.

Batul earned a reputation as a critic of Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn and his administration, even when he was still a commentator on the rival RGMA station, before the 2001 election.

He also earned the military's ire for interviewing members of the communist political group New People's Army, including those who claimed responsibility for the killing of a retired policeman in a local village in Puerto Princesa City.

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