French Expatriate and Family Murdered in Palawan – Possible Environmental Activism Motive

Sometimes life in the Philippines isn’t all sandy beaches and ice-rimmed margaritas.

Sometimes life in the Philippines is deadly.

Following up on the death of Phil Prins in Dumaguete just a month past December comes the news of another foreigner being killed in the Philippines, this time under quite disturbing circumstances. The murders occurred on January 26, 2016, claiming the life of 54 year old French national Jean Marc Messina, his 25 year old Filipina wife, Jewelyn (Badenas) and – most horrific of all – the couple’s 4 year old son, Guiliano.  The brutal, execution-style shooting occurred near Poblacion Narra in beautiful Palawan, a chain of islands forming the western edge of the Philippines. 

Foul Play
From what has been reported thus far, the three family members’ deceased remains were discovered outside of Narra in a white Nissan SUV that was parked on the side of the national highway.  (Narra is approximately 80 kilometers to the south of Puerto Princessa.)  After processing the crime scene, Palawan police superintendent Benjamin Acordo, Jr, noted that they were certain foul play was involved as they had “recovered empty shells and slugs inside the vehicle.”  Supporting the Superintendent’s statement was the fact  that the bodies were riddled with bullets but it is assumed that they didn’t need to report on the obvious.  The police also confirmed that the Frenchman was driving the vehicle, his young son was in the passenger seat and his wife was seated in the back of the truck.  Weeks after the killing, the police are still in the midst of the investigation, noting that they are “determining the circumstances behind the suspected murder case”.

A “source” from the expatriate community in Puerto Princessa noted that Jean Marc was on his way to Narra to “collect some money.”  The source also stated that Jean was very active in the yacht club on the island and a passionate SCUBA diver and environmental activist, concentrating on the preservation of local reefs that were being destroyed by dynamite and cyanide fishing. The latter motive was supported by news that they were also going to Narra to address those pernicious fishing techniques.

Enough information isn’t out as the investigation continues but there is a great deal of conjecture going on among the local expat community.  Whatever the reason, I don’t think at this point that anything in the world can justify the killing of a child.  Somewhere out there – among the lovely islands of Palawan – is a serious sociopath.

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Environmentalism Extremism
Some activist groups are already clamoring for action, believing that Jean was murdered as a result of his environmentalism. Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment (KPNE) notes that Jean would be the fifth environmentalist murdered in the Palwan area.  The facts are not all in yet, but it is well known that getting between a man and his dinner table is a very bad thing in the Philippines, with extreme measures sometimes being taken to deal with those opposing certain Filipino fishing and mining techniques

International NGO Global Witness
The NGO Global Witness conducted a study that was published in July of 2014.  After collating the data, they determined that the Philippines is the second most dangerous place in the world for environmentalists.  And if the knowledge that four activists had already been slain in Palawan in the last decade wasn’t bad enough, Global Witness also noted that 91 environmentalists have been murdered in the Philippines since 2001, an absolutely staggering number.  Don’t let up with the nail biting just yet, because except for only a single case, none of those murders have been solved.

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Even though the investigation is ongoing and there are very few objective facts available, two basic lessons can be taken away from the gruesome murders of Jean Mark, Jewelyn and Guilliano Messina.  First off, whenever large amounts of money are involved, keep your business to yourself and preferably conduct all affairs from within a secure bank. Alternately, always keep in mind that – as we previously noted – getting between people and their sources of income is rarely a good idea, especially in developing nations where fisherman and mining corporations will do just about anything they can to maintain the status quo.

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  1. Very sad but most of the fishermen of Cebu have learned that dynamite fishing and cyanide fishing is not sustainable. When I visited northern Cebu I saw a line of floats about 100 metres off the beaches and mangroves. I was told that marked a ‘no fishing’ zone and was told that within 5 years of the zone being established the fishermen noticed that the size of the fish they caught were larger and the quantity of fish they caught had increased. Most Filipinos are not stupid, surely the fishermen of Palawan are all not so stupid to think that killing an environmentalist will solve their problems of reduced catch sizes and quantities and start taking a hard look at what is happening to their fishery and who is causing the problem. I’m actually surprised that the fishermen are not killing off the bad fishermen amongst them.
    May be the police should actually be looking at who stands to inherit Jewelyn and Guiliano’s estate in the Philippines as from the information provided whoever did this has wiped out Jewelyn’s branch of the family.
    If I’m wrong, I apologise now to Jewelyn’s family for being cynically suspicious.

    1. I agree the West needs to share but usually we only share when there is a disaster and the media puts it in front of us with videos and news reports. But then a lot of us forget until the next disaster.

      Some Westerners get tired when they try to help people who are living in poverty because when the people they are trying to help continue to do the things that cause them to live in poverty.
      Like destroying the reefs that feed them with dynamite and cyanide fishing.

      What would you say to a farmer who grows coconuts and one day he decides it will be easier for him to harvest his coconuts if he cuts down his coconut palms and then gathers the nuts from the coconut palm trees lying on the ground.

      What would you say to a pig farmer who realises that if he sells his breeding sows because they weigh more than the piglets and he will get more money for them than if he just sold his piglets.

      What would you say to a rice farmer who harvests his rice and sells it all to the rice trader and does not keep any for seed grain for his next crop.

      All these examples point to short term profit and long term starvation and poverty for their families.
      No filipino would do this and yet some fishermen on Palawan are doing this and it is already causing starvation and poverty for some of their families.

      If my thoughts or words disturb or offend please forgive me.

  2. At the time my friends were diving in El Nido. They had mentioned to the dive master something about him touching the reef. When they surfaced they claim the dive boat had abandoned them in the current, they left the resort.

    I was shaken at the news also, as the resort was owned by a French national and his Filipina wife.

      1. this guy was not an environmentalist. he was murdered because of its dangerous illegal business. He had a reputation of being aggressive as well. This ABSOLUTLT nothing to do with environment!!! Read police reports and ask people who knew him well.!!

        1. Can you provide such evidence? If not, just writing your opinion doesn’t really bring anything to the table. If you could provide some verifiable objective facts, I’d appreciate it.

          1. There seems to be more to this as I talked to a man who claims to have been beaten that night in Narra while I was on Palawan June/17.

  3. They simply don’t want white people on the islands… read there massacred history and understand why. You’ll do better there if you look like “General David’s Fagen” year 1875.

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