Radio broadcaster fatally shot in southern Philippines

Jeoffrey Maitem
2022.04.18
Cotabato, Philippines
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Radio broadcaster fatally shot in southern Philippines Survivors of the 58 people, including 32 journalists, massacred by the Ampatuan clan in November 2009, react to the guilty verdicts outside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, Philippines, Dec. 19, 2019.
Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews

A hard-hitting radio broadcaster was killed by unknown gunmen in the southern Philippines on Good Friday as the air waves were shut down for Holy Week, police said Monday.  

If the killing of Jhannah Villegas, 38, in Maguindanao province turns out to be related to her work, she would be the 24th Philippine journalist to be killed since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016. 

Villegas may have made some enemies because of her work, provincial police spokesman Capt. Fayed Cana told BenarNews.

“Her death could be related to her work,” said Cana, adding that investigators have asked local leaders to help identify those responsible. 

Villegas was attacked at her home on Friday in Datu Anggal Midtimbang town by three unknown armed men who shot her at close range, Cana said. She was rushed to a hospital where she was declared dead on arrival. 

Villegas worked as a reporter for community newspaper Sagad and Bugso as well as a “block timer” broadcaster for Radyo Ukay in Kidapawan city, North Cotabato province and Energy FM 106.7 radio in Manila. A block timer is an independent journalist or broadcast producer who buys airtime to air programs on radio or television. 

Villegas was known as a critic of local officials, friends and colleagues said. She also headed Mindanao Balita, an online news blog covering local political events across the region.

Saudi Akmad, the victim’s husband, said his wife had received a death threat on Thursday night, hours before she was killed.  

“To the friends of my wife, let’s wait for the result of the police investigation,” Akmad said, adding he and his wife were planning to travel to a nearby city to visit a relative when she was shot. 

Journalists killed

The Philippines is considered one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists.

Jaynard Angeles, 36, who had worked as a political commentator and station manager for Radyo ni Juan, was gunned down in January in front of a car-repair shop in Tacurong city, also in the south. The suspects escaped and remain at large. 

Angeles’ predecessor at the radio station, Benjie Caballero, was shot in Tacurong in October 2019 and died in a hospital two months later. 

In December 2021, Jesus Malabanan, a journalist who helped the Reuters news agency cover the government’s war on drugs, was shot and killed last month in the central Philippines. 

Two months earlier, journalist Orlando Dinoy was fatally shot six times by a suspect who entered his home in the southern Philippines.  

Since 1992, about 90 Philippine journalists have been killed because of their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

That figure includes 32 journalists who were among 58 people killed in 2009 in the biggest single-day attack on the working press in the Philippines. The journalists were massacred by armed followers of the Ampatuan clan as they accompanied relatives and supporters of a rival who was filing his candidacy for governor of Maguindanao in the south.

During his six-year term, Duterte often vowed to protect journalists, but has been at the forefront of attacking critical reporting. His congressional colleagues revoked the license of ABS-CBN Corp., the country’s largest television network.

Maria Ressa, who heads the online news site Rappler, was convicted of cyber libel, but remains free on appeal. She shared a Nobel Peace Prize last year with a Russian journalist for their efforts in championing the free press.

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