Manila: Motorcycle gunmen shot to death two columnists of a local tabloid early on Wednesday as authorities look for possible motives behind the killing.

Richard Kho and Bonifacio Loreto were having a conversation in front of the latter’s store in suburban Quezon City’s Commonwealth district around 10.45pm on Tuesday when two men alighted from a motorcycle and approached them before shooting them at close range, said a witness and friend of the victims who identified himself only as “James,” in television interviews.

Loreto is the publisher of the tabloid Aksyon Ngayon (Action Now), while Kho is a columnist for in the paper. The publication tackles community issues, particularly corruption.

According to James, the suspects also shot at him but did not follow up after he covered his face and tried to play dead. After shooting at their targets, the two gunmen fled aboard their motorcycle in an unknown direction.

James said the first one to be shot by the assailants was Loreto.

Authorities recovered several spent cartridges from a .45-calibre and 9 millimetre pistols from the scene.

Police are still trying to determine the motive behind the killing but Kho’s daughter Michelle, said in television interviews that her father had often extended a helping hand to anyone who asked for assistance.

Michelle believes that the attack on her father had something to do with his job as a tabloid columnist. She sad that recently a man whose house was shot at had approached her father for help and the elder Kho obliged.

Chief inspector Nelson Santa Maria, team leader of the crime scene unit of the Quezon City Police Department said the assailants intended to kill their victims as the shots were all aimed at fatal points in the head and body.

Radio station dzBB said that based on the accounts of neighbours, the two victims had no known enemies.

The killing of Loreto and Kho is the latest attack on radio commentators and columnists.

The National Press Club, of which both Kho and Loreto were members, denounced the killings. NPC President Benny Antiporda slammed the government for its inability to solve the murders of columnists and radio commentators.

“Media killers are getting bolder each day primarily because the government is [useless] in solving similar crimes and in protecting journalists,” he said.