On April 15, 2022, unidentified attackers shot and killed Jhannah Villegas at her home in the town of Anggal Midtimbang, in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao, according to multiple news reports.
Those news reports said she had been threatened by people she criticized in her reporting, but did not specify who made those threats.
Villegas’ husband, Saudi Akmad, was quoted in those news reports saying that Villegas had received an anonymous death threat on the night before her killing, but did not elaborate on the substance of the threat. CPJ was unable to find contact information for Akmad.
Provincial police spokesperson Captain Fayed Cana said that Villegas’ killing “could be related to her work” and that she may have made enemies through her reporting for the community newspaper Sagad and Bugso and as a radio reporter, according to those sources.
Jonathan De Santos, chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, told CPJ by email that Villegas’ killing “could be work-related.”
In addition to reporting for Sagad and Bugso, Villegas worked as a block-time broadcaster for Radyo Ukay in the city of Kidapawan and Energy FM 106.7 in Manila, those reports said. CPJ emailed those outlets and messaged them on Facebook for comment, but did not receive any replies.
Those news reports referred to her reporting on local politics and officials as “hard-hitting.” She also headed Mindanao Balita, an independent online news blog covering local political events across the region for which she reported on the anti-government insurgency in Maguindanao including covering the conflict, its consequences for people in the region, and reporting from within areas controlled by insurgents.
The Presidential Task Force on Media Security, a state agency comprised of Philippine police tasked with solving media murders, did not reply to CPJ’s multiple emailed requests for information on the status of the police investigation and whether the task force considered her killing to be work-related.
CPJ’s calls to the Maguindanao Provincial Police Office and other stations in the region either went unanswered or were picked up by officers unfamiliar with the status of Villegas’ case.