PTFoMS executive director Undersecretary Joel Egco (File photo)

MANILA — Authorities have already identified one “person of interest” (POI) in the twin killings of newspaper columnist Jupiter Gonzales and his companion in Arayat, Pampanga, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) announced on Tuesday.

PTFoMS executive director, Undersecretary Joel Egco, said his office has sufficient evidence against the suspected killer of Gonzales and his friend, Christopher Tiongson.

“Our initial 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 in a statement.

“A CCTV 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 was driving his Nissan Almera with Tiongson when the assailant shot them in Catucud village in Arayat, Pampanga around 10:30 p.m, Sunday night.

Tiongson was killed on the spot, while Gonzales died before reaching Arayat District Hospital.

Killing ‘not media-related’

Egco noted that the alleged suspect had a “very strong” motive to kill Gonzales, based on the initial results of the investigation.

He refused to disclose the identity of the lone gunman, but added that initial probe showed the reason behind the murder was “not related to media work at all”.

Gonzales, who wrote a column for tabloid Remate, was a known staunch critic of illegal gambling in local carnivals.

Egco said the name of the person who is allegedly behind the deaths of Gonzales and Tiongson would be revealed after the filing of the criminal charges.

“We are now following up a very strong lead. Fact is, we now have a POI (person of interest) and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Central Luzon and the Arayat police are now in the process of building up an airtight case,” he said.

Heated argument between killer, victims

The PTFoMS is currently conducting an investigation on the twin killings.

The PTFoMS’ fact-finding body found that Tiongson could have been shot first in the head and died instantly, while Gonzales, although initially wounded, was "finished" while attempting to flee.

Egco said he, Arayat Police chief Lieutenant Colonel Dale Soliba, and other investigators had raised the possibility that the alleged gunman and the victims had a “heated argument” during the shooter's four-minute stay in the backseat.

“Probers believe the victims were shot at pointblank range inside the vehicle,” Egco said.

“I watched a CCTV footage where the car of the victims and the gunman are clearly seen. Since the scene of the crime is just a few meters away from the local carnival, or peryahan, and at a busy intersection, there were many people who witnessed the incident up to the time when the gunman took off on a commandeered motorcycle," he added.

Egco said the charges would be filed against the alleged suspect “in the next few days,” after exhaustive follow-up investigations by the police.

He vowed that the killer of Gonzales and Tiongson would be brought to justice. (PNA)