The Murder Of Christine Silawan, And How Her Name Was A Forbidden Online Keyword


A village in Lapu-Lapu City, Philippines, was peaceful.

While Lapu-Lapu City is a highly urbanized city, with the Mactan–Cebu International Airport considered the second busiest airport in the country, the village Christine Lee Silawan lived was not really affected by the hectic urban lives.

That, until she was found dead, in an extremely gruesome way.

In one Monday morning, her lifeless body was found, in the middle of a two-hectare vacant lot.

She was seen wearing the shirt she had the day before, but half naked without undergarments, and her face was skinned to the bone until half of her skull is exposed.

Christine was only 16-year-old when she died, just days before her 17th birthday.

Christine Silawan
Christine Silawan

Christine Lee Silawan was a volunteer church collector for a nearby church, called the Sacred Heart Parish, located in Pajac.

The resident of Sitio Soong in Barangay Mactan, which is a village in Lapu-Lapu City, worked every Sunday, in which the Grade 9 student would leave her home for church at 4pm to carry out her duties.

However, one Sunday, she failed to return home by 7pm that night.

Christine’s mother, Lourdes Silawan, was so worried that she called the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“She was part of a church ministry as a church collector,” an official said to reporters.

“She asked permission from her mother yesterday (Sunday) that she would go to church but she was not able to go home since then.”

This was when witnesses said that she was last seen with three men.

Christine Silawan was found the next day after she was reported missing, in the middle of a field.
Christine Silawan's body was found the next day after she was reported missing, in the middle of a field.

The next morning, some locals who happened to be passersby, were shocked to find a lifeless body of a teenager, half naked, right in the middle of a field.

The police was quickly dispatched to the location after they were informed of the body dump.

At first, the police suspected a rape, and a murder case.

According to an initial investigation, a stab wound was found on her neck, possible the cause of her death.

But after an autopsy, it was realized Christine lost half of the skin on her face because of an acid that was poured onto her face. The forensic team suggested that she was still alive when the incident happened, and that was done before the skin was peeled off.

Then, the forensic found that not only that she was missing the skin on her face, but her tongue, trachea, esophagus, parts of her neck, part of her right temporal hair and her right ear were also missing.

The Public Attorney's Office forensic team also confirmed that Christine was raped, based on bleeding that was found inside her genitals.

While multiple stab wounds were found on her body, including her neck, the forensic team found that Christine was strangled to death using a rope.

The police also thought that the killer may have been high on drugs because of how brutally Christine was murdered.

The police scanned for CCTV footage throughout the location, trying to find out how Christine got there.

And soon after, the manhunt began.

Read: Luka Magnotta, And The Manhunt By Online Cat Lovers And The Police

What was left of Christine Silawan after the gruesome, heartless murder
What was left of Christine Silawan after the gruesome, heartless murder (blurred)

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Christine was murdered between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm on March 10, 2019.

During the investigation, Christine appeared on CCTV, walking with a man on that Sunday evening. This was the last known footage of her.

First, the police came down to a name: Jonas Martel Bueno.

He was initially arrested for the murder of a 62-year-old farmer in Danao City, Cebu. But this time, he denied involvement in Christine's death. The police suspected him because of the style of the killing is "strikingly similar" to that of Christine's. After some more investigations, Jonas was off the hook.

"He has no direct link to the slay of Christine Silawan," Police Brigadier General Marcelo Morales said.

Later, the police suspected a man identified as "John," who was Christine's ex-boyfriend.

He became the primary suspect because Christine broke up with him just a few days before her death. The police that was looking at jealousy as the possible motive, investigated the conversations the two made on Facebook Messenger. The police was also looking for evidence of the suspect's usage of a fake account to lure the victim into meeting her.

And based on those clues, and also because of some suspicious messages that were deleted, John was arrested at his home.

But the investigation was made difficult when the relative of John said that he has an alibi.

John's mother claimed that his son was playing basketball with his friends and doing household chores on the day of her murder. The suspect's mother added that her son would have been on the run if he had committed the murder. What's more, it was John himself who answered the door when the police came to the family's house with an arrest warrant.

What's more, John's drug test was negative.

But the police was at first certain that John is the killer, because according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), eyewitness testimony and CCTV footage showed that Christine was walking away from the church, followed by John at 6:12 pm.

This is a contrary to the mother's claim that he was playing basketball.

Christine Silawan
Screenshot of a CCTV footage, showing the last moment Christine Silawan is known to be alive.

While the case was considered "closed" on March 19th, the police was still looking for the two remaining suspects.

This is because some of the eyewitnesses said that three people were with Christine that evening.

This is in line with what the forensic team said. They concluded that from the damage done to the body.

Christine's mother also believes that no single person could have done such a thing.

The mother had a grudge because she didn't know about the two's relationship at all. Christine had not told her about it.

"As of now, I can’t still believe that he was alone in killing Christine. I didn’t know about the boy," she said.

It was then realized that the whole thing was a mixed up, simply because Christine had another boyfriend.

But unlike John, this boyfriend was a "hidden" boyfriend.

Flowers and candles are placed on the tomb of Christine Lee Silawan at the Cattleya Cemetery in the town of Cordova
Flowers and candles are placed on the tomb of Christine Lee Silawan at the Cattleya Cemetery in the town of Cordova

His name, Renato Llenes.

It was on April 9 that Llenes was arrested by the police, where he made an "extra-judicial confession" for killing her but he entered "not guilty" plea for the murder charges.

Renato claimed that his crime was inspired by Momo Challenge.

He admitted to have created a dummy account named CJ Diaz on Facebook to lure Christine out.

The two were actively communicating through the popular social media platform for about 4 to 6 months

"I used a dummy Facebook account to lure Christine. We chatted frequently until we became a couple on Facebook," he said.

But it was disappointment that drove Renato to murder her.

"We agreed to meet personally for the first time on March 10 at Sacred Heart Parish in Lapu-Lapu City. We fought on our way (to Barangay Bangkal) and that’s when I killed her," he added.

His disappointment stemmed when Christine was displeased when she realized Renato was much older that what she expected. Christine was also angry at Renato for deceiving her using the fake name.

Renato was also disappointed when he realized that Christine had a history of sexual intercourse with her ex-boyfriend.

"I just learned that she already had a boyfriend, and I got mad," said Renato, who also admitted that he was using drugs at the time.

According to the PNP, Renato used scissors to stab Christine over 30 times on different parts of her body. He also used that same scissors to skin her face.

The purpose, according to him, is to prevent Christine from being identified.

Renato explained that he learned how to flay Christine's face and neck through videos he found on social media platforms, including Facebook and YouTube.

On May 24, 2020, Renato allegedly killed himself by hanging. He was found dead inside his infirmary cell of Lapu-Lapu City Jail in Sitio Soong, Barangay Mactan, Lapu-Lapu City.

Renato Llenes
Renato Llenes, a father of five children, admitted that he killed Christine Silawan

It's worth noting though, that even when Renato was already apprehended, Christine's mother, Lourdes Silawan, said that she would not sign the affidavit unless her daughter’s ex-boyfriend would be included in the complaint.

She couldn't agree with the conditions set because the police lacked the evidence against John.

“I respect Mrs. Silawan’s refusal to sign the complaint-affidavit against Mr. Llenes unless my client is included in the case. But I hope that she would realize that by her refusal, she was refusing justice for her daughter.” lawyer of the former boyfriend of Christine said.

“It is unfortunate that everyone, including my client, is wishing for justice for Christine, yet her mother refuses the very justice our community wants to obtain.”

What's more, Llenes did not confess to raping the Christine.

While bleeding was found inside her vagina, no fresh laceration was found, suggesting that Llenes didn't have sex with Christine.

When the case was made public, netizens were shocked by such level of brutality done to a young girl.

But because in the Philippines there is no death penalty, the killing has elicited controversy and political debate over the proposed reinstatement of the death penalty as a punishment for heinous crimes.

Among other reasons, and to also honor Christine and her family, the authorities asked the public to not look for Christine's name on the internet.

But again, the nature of the internet means that it's impossible for netizens to do what they're told.