Joaquin Briones, a columnist for the national tabloid newspaper Remate and a former radio commentator at the local dyME radio station, was shot four times in the back at around 8:45 a.m. in Milagros, a town in the island province of Masbate. He died on the spot from his injuries, reports said.
Police Inspector Malu Calubaquid said the murderers fled the scene of the crime near the town's Bombon Bridge on a motorcycle, news reports said. No suspects were identified, and no arrests were made in the immediate aftermath of the attack, the reports said.
The Presidential Task Force on Media Security, established in 2016 by President Rodrigo Duterte to protect journalists and to bring those who kill them to justice, said it had launched an investigation into Briones' murder, according to news reports.
Milagros Police Inspector Anselmo Prima said police suspected either local politics or personal grudges as possible motives for the crime, reports said.
Lydia Buena, Remate's managing editor, said she believed Briones' murder was likely linked to his "hard-hitting" reports on sensitive topics such as illegal fishing, underground gambling, and the drug trade, Agence France-Presse reported.
She said Briones had received "many death threats" for his reporting before his murder and that his journalism had earned him "several enemies" in the local community, the report said.
Paul Gutierrez, president of the National Press Club and a friend of the victim, said that Briones in December 2016 suggested staying in Manila because he feared for his safety in Milagros, reports said. Gutierrez did not mention specifically why Briones said he had felt threatened.
Ryan Rosauro, secretary general of the National Union of Journalists (NUJP), told CPJ that the professional association's initial investigations indicated Briones' killing was likely "work-related." Rosauro said that NUJP investigators received anonymous threats after interviewing witnesses and following up on details of the case.