Formal charges have been filed against the three suspects in the killing of a tabloid columnist and his companion in Pampanga, the Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) said.
“Charges of double murder have been filed against the primary suspect Armando Velasco. In addition, two accomplices identified as Edgardo Cabrer and a ‘John Doe’ were also held culpable,” Joel Egco, PTFoMS executive director, said in a statement.
Egco, also a communications undersecretary, said the case was filed before the Pampanga Prosecutors Office in San Fernando City.
Journalist Jupiter Gonzales and his companion, Christopher Tiongson were earlier shot dead inside their car after what appeared to be a heated altercation with the gunman.
Tiongson was killed on the spot, while Gonzales died before reaching Arayat District Hospital.
Egco had said the victims knew the suspect since he was seen casually entering the victim’s car.
“Our investigation showed that Gonzales knew his killer. In fact, the gunman first boarded the left backseat of the victim’s car and presumably spoke with the victims,” Egco said.
“A CCTV (closed-circuit television camera) footage shows that the gunman stepped out of the vehicle after about four minutes and opened the driver side in an apparent attempt to commandeer the vehicle. However, Gonzales was still able to drive 50 meters away until he hit a flowerbox,” he added
Gonzales, who wrote a column for tabloid Remate, was a known staunch critic of illegal gambling in local carnivals.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, who co-chairs the PTFoMS, lauded the task force and the Philippine National Police (PNP) for the quick resolution of the twin slays.
“I congratulate the PTFoMS, the PNP and everyone who worked hard in accomplishing the mission this early. We are indeed very grateful for your work,” Andanar said.
Meanwhile, Egco promised that the PTFoMS “shall relentlessly act on all cases of violence, threats or murders of media workers.”
“The agency has effectively investigated, monitored and acted on every incident brought to it, including the filing of charges against suspects in both work-related and non-work-related deaths of journalists,” he said.
In January 2020, Egco said the task force would embark on a yearlong, countrywide safety seminars for media workers to be given by competent security experts and professionals.
“Likewise, the agency has strengthened its engagements with both local and international stakeholders to include projects with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Media Support, among others,” he added.