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Radio commentator shot dead in northern Philippines

(CMFR/IFEX) - 8 November 2012 - A motorcycle-riding gunman shot dead a radio commentator in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija on 8 November 2012. Nueva Ecija province is approximately 112 kilometers north of Manila.

Two passersby saw Julius Caesar Cauzo, a regular political commentator for dwJJ 684 lying on Flowerlane Street, Aduas Centro village in Cabanatuan City at around 8:40 a.m. (local time). Cauzo was rushed to the nearby Good Samaritan Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

DwJJ announcer Elena Quijano, in a phone interview with CMFR, said Cauzo had dropped by the radio station before the attack to get a spare motorcycle battery that he was bringing to the village of Aduas Norte. The broadcaster left around 7:40 a.m. and was expected to return around 9:30 a.m. for his daily radio program.

A police officer told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility that Cauzo was shot thrice in the back while he was himself on his motorcycle. The police have yet to identify the gunman. The black motorcycle used by the suspect had no plate number.

Both the police and Cauzo's co-workers are still baffled as to the possible motive for the broadcaster's murder. Quijano told CMFR that Cauzo had earlier received death threats from his commentaries about political issues but had dismissed them.

Prior to the attack, Cauzo had been advocating approval of Cabanatuan's classification as a highly urbanized city (HUC). President Benigno Aquino III's proclamation of Cabanatuan City as an HUC in July 2012 had been contested by some politicians and local groups.

The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) describes HUCs as "Cities with a minimum population of two hundred thousand (200,000) inhabitants, as certified by the National Statistics Office, and with a latest annual income of at least Fifty Million Pesos based on 1991 constant prices, as certified by the city treasurer."

A plebiscite to ratify the presidential proclamation is scheduled for 1 December 2012. According to a Philippine State report, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has issued a gun ban from 5 November until 11 December 2012 in connection with the plebiscite.

DwJJ is owned by the wife of Cabanatuan City Mayor Julius Cesar "Jay" Vergara, who is in favor of Cabantuan's classification as an HUC.

Cauzo was also serving his first term as village councilor in Sibul village, Talavera, a town north of Cabanatuan City.

If his killing was work-related, Cauzo will be the fourth journalist killed in the line of duty this year; the 11th during the administration of Benigno Aquino III; and the second work-related killing in Nueva Ecija. In April 2007, radio reporter Carmelo Palacios was killed in Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija.

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