In San Fernando, Cebu, the drug war is also fought on Facebook
MANILA, Philippines – Lakambini “Neneth” Reluya, who survived an ambush that killed her husband Ricardo and two others, was reelected mayor of San Fernando town in Cebu, May 14. The ambush that she survived happened on January 22, in Talisay town.
In a two-part series, "The Kill Lists of San Fernando," Patricia Evangelista probed into the murders of Reluya and other local officials killed in the town in early 2019, as well as the threats made against them on a local Facebook page.
Less than a week before Ricardo "Nonoy" Reluya’s murder, he showed local media screenshots of threatening Facebook comments allegedly posted by Neneth's rival, Ruben Feliciano.
Nonoy claimed that Feliciano was behind the death threats he had received. Nonoy told Sunstar: “He [Feliciano] also said, ‘I will kill you all.’ I did not make these up because Feliciano posted these on social media.”
Feliciano, who denied any involvement in the killing, was cleared as a suspect in the ambush later on.
Police said shortly after the killing that politics could have been the motive.
At least 3 other local politicians who were accused of being involved in the illegal drug trade were killed in Cebu during the election season.
Reneboy Dacalos, Johnny Arriesgado, and Alfonso “Kwati” Donaire IV, who were all listed as drug-linked on a Facebook page, were also killed by vigilantes in early 2019. The other two politicians on the list were municipal councilor Edwin Villaver, who has since disappeared, and the town mayor Neneth, who survived the January 22 ambush.
‘Mga Estorya sa Politika sa San Fernando’
The names of Dacalos, Arriesgado, Donaire, Villaver and the Reluyas were not on President Duterte’s narco list, but they appeared on the Facebook page Mga Estorya sa Politika sa San Fernando (Political Stories from San Fernando).
The Facebook page, which had around 6,000 members, became the site of threats and premonitions of the killings of the local officials.
Among the most active Facebook users in listing targets was a certain Brutos Salgo, who named San Fernando councilors Dacalos, Arriesgado, Donaire, and Villaver as being allegedly involved in drugs. He would later also tag Nonoy Reluya, whom Salgo referred to as “a narco politician."
Another voice that stood out in the Political Stories page was that of Paula Marie Mijares, who identified herself as a “100% supporter” of the Reluyas’ rivals Feliciano and former San Fernando mayor Abe Canoy.
Mijares took credit for the killing, saying “a series of investigations” was conducted before the incident that also injured reelectionist Mayor Neneth Reluya. Mijares also posted about the death of town councilor Donaire before local media could report about it.
Rachel Pollo, whose account would later be under the name Lakambini Manugas, was yet another ubiquitous voice in the group. So was Neil Enad Enriquez, who claimed to be a former town official, along with Ma Lina Eyo and Marco Makisig.
Most of the accounts “had little to no public profiles, showing none of the daily interactions and circles of relationships that characterize legitimate Facebook pages.”
‘We are totally back!’
This was not the case with Shielbert Alberto Encabo, who used his official account for posts in the Political Stories group. Like Pollo and Enriquez, Encabo was openly a supporter of the Feliciano-Canoy ticket.
On March 19 and again on April 6, Encabo was arrested for cyber libel. The complainant was Ritchie Paul “Ching” Manugas, who was included by both Mijares and Pollo in their kill lists.
Manugas and two other witnesses also said Encabo was behind the Rachel Pollo account, an allegation which, according to the provincial prosecutor, Encabo “did not even make any attempt to disavow, challenge, and oppose.”
Rappler asked Facebook if the activities of Salgo, Mijares, Pollo, Enriquez, Eyo, Makisig, and Encabo “fell within Facebook’s terms and conditions.”
Facebook replied: “Given the severity of the content reported and our focus preventing possible offline harm, we have temporarily disabled the Group while our teams do a thorough investigation to identify and remove any more violating content.”
The page Mga Estorya sa Politika sa San Fernando was suspended by Facebook on April 26. On the same day, Mga Estorya Pulitika Sa San Fernando emerged. The first post read: “We are totally back!” – Rappler.com