MANILA -- The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) has started its investigation on the killing of a tabloid columnist who was gunned down in Masbate, the task force’s chief said Monday, March 13.

PTFoMS Executive Director Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco said the agency already directed the formation of a Special Investigation Task Group, through the Philippine National Police Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM), to look into the killing of Remate columnist Joaquin “Jun” Briones.

Briones was shot four times by unidentified riding-in-tandem gunmen Monday morning (March 13) at the Bombon Bridge in Barangay Bacolod, Milagros town, Masbate.

“As with all cases involving journalists who are threatened, harmed or killed, we are presuming Jun’s case is work related,” Egco said.

The PTFoMS chief said he immediately issued the directive to DIDM chief, Police Director Augusto Marquez, and Task Force Usig acting head Senior Superintendent Eder Collantes upon the instruction of Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar, PTFoMS co-chairman.

The task force is chaired by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.

Egco, who counts the victim among his close friends, said he learned through a phone conversation with the victim’s brother that the killing could have been politically motivated.

But the former president of the National Press Club of the Philippines said under Administrative Order 1, Briones's case would have to be presumed as work related and therefore the subject of special investigation.

Egco also said that Briones earlier expressed intention to join the PTFoMS sometime in February.

The PTFoMS counts Briones’s killing as the 18th case to be acted upon by the task force since October 2016.

These cases include those of journalists who received death threats and those who were physically assaulted while performing their work.

Only the case of Catanduanes publisher Larry Que has been verified as work related and has been included in the tally of media killings.

Que's case is the first recorded Media Worker Killing under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In comparison, there were seven recorded journalist deaths in the first nine months of the previous administration.

They were: Jose Daguio in Kalinga province (July 3, 2010), Miguel Belen of DWEB FM in Camarines Sur (July 9, 2010), Edilberto Cruz of Salida talboid in Nueva Ecija (August 1, 2010), Edison Falmeniana Sr. of Mindanao Inquirer in Zamboanga Del Sur (December 10, 2010), Doctor Gerry Ortega of Puerto Princesa, Palawan (January 24, 2011), Cirilo Gallardo of DWWW FM in Abra (February 1, 2011), and Len Flores Somera of DZME in Manila (March 24, 2011). (PNA)