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Cotabato lady evangelist shot dead for 'witchcraft'

KIDAPAWAN CITY — Two gunmen shot dead a woman evangelist who was suspected by some of her neighbors of practicing witchcraft in North Cotabato on Friday, as she was watching young men play basketball in her village. The killing of Bianita Merced, 57, the assigned pastor of a Christian Church, was witnessed by many villagers, including her relatives, in Barangay Malongon in Makilala, North Cotabato. Reports said she sustained two gunshot wounds in the neck which resulted in her instant death. She never made it alive to the Makilala Medical Specialist Center. Police were told the suspects are neighbors of the Merceds and had long been telling others in the village that Bianita was a ‘witch.’ Healer, not witch “Everyone in the village has suspected my mother to be a witch," said Japhet, the victim’s son, who added that the rumors “were baseless and had destroyed the integrity of my mother, our family, and our Church." Nancy Hinosa, also a pastor who belongs to Merced’s church, believes their minister had possessed a ‘power that comes from God’. “She was able to heal sick people but not through the use of a witchcraft. Her power to heal came from our Almighty. I am so sure of that," said Hinosa. Japhet explained the rumors that his mother was a witch began when a former village chairman died after the two had a heated altercation over a parcel of land. Before the official died, he was treated by an ‘albularyo’ (herbalist healer) who then told his relatives that he had been stricken by an ‘invisible power’ – most probably from a witch. — MRT/VS, GMA News