MANILA, Philippines – The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) on Monday, March 12, identified the suspect in the killing of broadcaster Christopher Lozada.
Lozada, 29, had been gunned down in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur on October 24, 2017. He was driving home with his partner, Honey Faith Toyco, who was injured in the shooting but survived.
In a Palace briefing on Monday, PTFoMS chief Joel Egco named the suspect as Rolly Mahilum, said to be a "close aide" of the family of Bislig City Mayor Librado Navarro. Charges will be filed against Mahilum, who remains at large.
"We do not claim that any of the [mayor's] family members [are] directly linked to the crime, but... depende doon sa sasabihin ni Rolly Mahilum (it depends on what Rolly Mahilum says) once we get him," Egco told reporters.
Egco said initial investigation found that Navarro filed a libel case against Lozada before Bislig City Regional Trial Court Branch 29. Lozada was operations manager and anchor of DXBF Prime Broadcasting Network, where he was known as "Chris Rapido."
Shortly before his killing, the slain broadcaster also posted on Facebook that he had been receiving death threats.
Egco narrated that on November 7, 2017, the PTFoMS "coordinated the implementation of two search warrants" at the residences of Mahilum and a certain Felixberto Villocino Jr, "who were named by sources as suspects." Villocino was arrested for and charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. The same charges were filed against Mahilum.
The search operations were led by Superintendent Cesar Paday-os of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), who Egco said was "curiously" relieved from his post a day after the warrants were served.
The gunmen's suspected getaway vehicle, "a Toyota HiAce van with plate number SFJ 951," is also allegedly owned by the Bislig City government.
Police asked Navarro that the vehicle be made available "for verification," but Egco said the mayor has not responded to this request to date. Two witnesses who said they spotted the van have since executed sworn statements.
Last February 25, said Egco, a witness who was going through photos of Lozada on a laptop of the slain broadcaster's staffer "came across a photo of a man who was identified – without doubt – as the man who shot Lozada." This man was later named as Mahilum. – Rappler.com