(Updated 4:50 p.m.) A motorcycle-riding gunman shot dead a radio anchor in Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija province Thursday morning, police said. Cabanatuan City police chief Senior Superintendent Eli Depra said the victim, initially identified as Julius Caesar Cauzo, 51, was walking in Barangay Aduas when shot. "Siya ay tinambangan ng mga nakasakay sa motor na gunman at binaril," Depra said in an interview on dzBB radio. He said police and bystanders rushed Cauzo to a nearby hospital but it was too late to save him. In a separate interview with radio dzBB, Nueva Ecija provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Walter Castillejos said he has ordered Cabanatuan City police to intensify their visibility and patrols.
"I have directed the chief of police of Cabanatuan City to conduct an intensive investigation. We created a provincial Task Force Cauzo to investigate the killing," Castillejos said. Later in the day, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the government will utilize its forces to apprehend the attacker. “Unang-una, kinokondena po natin ang nangyaring karahasan dito sa radio personality na ‘to. Ang police po ngayon may isang gunman [na] na-identify po sila. Hinahanap po nila ang gunman na ‘yun. Pangalawa, they’re looking at the motives of this particular killing, whether it’s personal or work-related,” Lacierda said at a press briefing.
But Lacierda stopped short of saying that a special court should be established to handle journalist killings in the country, saying it is a matter for the supreme court or the legislature to decide.
“Sila [the Supreme Court] po ang may decision kung sila po ay magtatayo po ng courts—or ng legislature po. Nasa sa kanilang dalawa po ‘yan kung, sa kanilang pananaw, kailangang magtayo po ng special courts po for this,” Lacierda said.
Based on data from the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, a total of 153 journalists, excluding Cauzo, have been killed since democracy was won back in 1986.
Since President Benigno Aquino III assumed the presidency in 2010, a total of 13 journalists have been killed, four of them this year. Death threats Depra said Cauzo was an anchorman and reporter for Radio Vision dwJJ. He said they are trying to retrace the events shortly before the shooting. Also, he said they are looking into whether the shooting was related to Cauzo's work in media. He said that while Cauzo had "mentioned in passing" supposed death threats against him, he was not aware of "specific" threats. "May kakuwentuhan si Julius dati, ang usual na sinasabi kumbaga sa media, kasama 'yan sa trabaho. Walang specific pa nalalaman sa ganoong threat. Inaalam namin at kakausapin ang kaibigan at pamilya," he said. Meanwhile, Depra said they will continue to look for witnesses who can provide further details about the shooting. So far, he said the witnesses they have interviewed could not give descriptions further than that the suspect wore a helmet and rode a black TMX-type motorcycle.
— with Mandy Fernandez and Patricia Denise Chiu/LBG/RSJ, GMA News