The government is waging a losing battle on the human rights front. Another journalist was shot dead while driving a multicab on his way to work. Fernando “Dong” Batul suffered 12 bullet wounds — 4 in the face, four in the chest, three in the back and one in the side. His killers, two men aboard a Honda motorcycle, left four slugs from a .45 caliber pistol as their calling cards. Batul is # 79 in the roster of murdered journalists since 1986.

The unabated killing of journalists and activists, the accumulated tears of all their widows, spouses, and children, and the piling up of unresolved cases in the offices of Task Force Newsmen and other similar task forces tell us that lives are cheap in the Philippines. It also tells us to be wary of stepping on someone else’s toes because the percentage of your being killed for it is higher here than in other parts of Asia.

 Anyone can hire an assassin for a price especially when the odds of being caught are at its historic low. Poverty, hunger, extreme desperation — the line to barbarism can be easily crossed by those who feel there is nothing else left. And so this is what we have — journalists killed while on their way to work, activists murdered inside their homes, even local politicians peppered with bullets from an anonymous gun.

Commission on Human Rights chair Purificacion Quisumbing came out openly to announce a “pattern of impunity” in how these killings were done. “We strongly condemn the spate of killings that have yet to be resolved and we have noted that there is a perceived pattern of the violation of the human right to life.” According to her, the CHR had received 143 reports of extrajudicial killings from cause-oriented groups. The figure covers killings only in a span of one year : March 2005 – March 2006. And this vicious pattern continues.

“We couldn’t care less what colors the killers are. Is the government so helpless?,” Quisumbing bewailed. Rightfully so, she reiterated that the government is still responsible in protecting the right to life and the security of homes and public order and property.

The foreign press associations have taken notice of a similar pattern of impunity in the shooting of journalists. They have long stopped asking this question: They shoot journalists, don’t they? The whole world knows the chilling answer — yes, in the Philippines, they do.