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Controversial Facebook 'commentator' in Maguindanao shot dead

John Unson - Philstar.com
Controversial Facebook 'commentator' in Maguindanao shot dead
This photograph taken on March 23, 2022, shows the logo of US social media platform Facebook displayed on a tablet in Lille, northern France.
AFP / Denis Charlet

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — A gunman shot dead a controversial Facebook commentator in an attack before dawn Friday in  Barangay Mapayag in Datu Anggal Midtimbang,  Maguindanao.

The 38-year-old Jhanna Villegas died from gunshot wounds in her back.

Col. Jibin Bongcayao, director of the Maguindanao provincial police, said Saturday investigators are still trying to identify the killer of Villegas.

Villegas was neither an employee of any media outfit nor a member of any legitimate press group here and elsewhere in central Mindanao.

Members of the mainstream media community in the region, in fact, avoided her company due to her live commentaries and reports on Facebook that were, for them, against their common advocacy for culture, religion and conflict-sensitive journalism.

Even so, Villegas, whose friends said had used the aliases Emily Autida, Jennilyn Sarmiento and Ice Dorado, had thousands of followers.

She drew flak for having caused panic recently among residents of two barangays in Datu Anggal Midtimbang that she said, on Facebook, were to be attacked by heavily-armed men hostile to a rival group in both areas.

Her warning was preceded, about two weeks prior, by the fatal ambush in a village in one of the two barangays of nine men by an enemy group, whose leaders are now being prosecuted for the offense.

Villegas also caught the ire of ethnic Teduray tribal leaders in South Upi, Maguindanao for what they construed as her having escalated, via her Facebook commentaries, the animosity between tribe members and armed non-Teduray settlers trying to drive them out of their lands in their ancestral domains in the municipality.

Bongacayao said personnel of the Datu Anggal Municipal Police Station had tapped the support of local leaders in trying to identify the killer of Villegas.

Villegas and companions were supposed to leave then for General Santos City, already out of their house in Barangay Mapayag in Datu Anggal Midtimbang, when she was shot twice with a pistol from behind by a man who had immediately escaped.

Bongcayao said probers need enough time to put closure to the incident. 

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