The tangled web in publisher Larry Que’s slay case

Lian Buan

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The tangled web in publisher Larry Que’s slay case
The Catanduanes cop charged with murder in the Larry Que case is the same policeman who is now accusing his superiors of giving kill orders against drug suspects

MANILA, Philippines – A presidential task force considers the murder of Catanduanes-based newspaper publisher Larry Sy Que as so “significant” that  it has taken the lead in filing a murder complaint against the suspects.

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) accompanied Que’s partner, Edralyn Pangilinan, to the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday, May 2, to file a murder complaint against Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua, Police Officer 1 Vincent Tacorda, Prince Lim Subion, a John Doe, and a Richard Doe.

Robbery and extortion charges were also filed against Tacorda because he allegedly asked the family for P10 million in exchange for evidence on Que’s death, according to a statement released by the Palace communications office.

Que, who was gunned down in December 2016 outside his Virac office, is considered as the first case of media killing under the Duterte administration. It is a top priority for the PTFoMS which President Rodrigo Duterte created in October 2016.

‘Bombastic’ unpublished report

“The case in itself is a high-profile case, being the first, by far, verified media worker killing under the administration of President Duterte,” PTFoMS Executive Director Undersecretary Joel Egco.

“It involves narco-politics, drugs. It also targets the issue of scalawags in law enforcement agencies, not only the PNP. And 4, the case shows the President was right about the pervasiveness of the drug problem. Ganoon siya ka-significant (That’s how significant it is),” he added.

Cua had denied his involvement in Que’s death in statements to the media.

The PTFoMS treats Que as an important puzzle piece in the administration’s campaign against narcopolitics. Egco said they are in possession of a second report that Que never published.

Connected ito. Anti-drug advocate din kasi si Larry. In fact, ‘yung second edition ng diyaryo niya, may kopya na tayo, pero hindi niya naipublish ‘yon. Mas bombastic; mas malaman ‘yung second edition,” Egco said.

(This is connected. Larry is also an anti-drug advocate. In fact we have a copy of the second edition of his newspaper that he never published. It’s more bombastic; it’s juicier.)

The PTFoMS has requested that the Que family be placed under the witness protection program.

PO1 Tacorda

Tacorda was part of the group assigned by the Philippine National Police (PNP) to guard the Que family.  According to Pangilinan, Tacorda quit from the family’s security detail “out of guilt.”

Nakonsensiya daw siya (Tacorda) noong makita ang mga anak ko na yumayakap pa sa kanya. Mula noon, di na siya nagduty ulit sa amin,” Pangilinan said.

(He was bothered by his conscience when he saw my children who would even hug him. Since then, he never went on duty for us again.) 

Pangilinan claimed she had already given money to Tacorda for leads in the investigation on Que’s murder.

Tacorda made news last week when he announced his resignation from the PNP and accused his superiors of giving kill orders against drug suspects. His confession adds to the web of tales of extrajudicial killings in the police’s war on drugs.  (READ: Witnesses name Manila policeman behind drug-related summary killings)

Tacorda told the Bicol Standard that the murder complaint against him was an attempt to sidetrack his exposé against the Virac police.

He said he was willing to appear in the Senate inquiry being pushed by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on alleged killings by policemen in the administration’s war on drugs. (READ: Trillanes seeks Senate probe into killings by police in drug war)

Controversial article

Que, who also owned an insurance company, was killed two weeks after he set up Catanduanes News Now. It published an article about the recent discovery of a shabu laboratory in Virac.

In the article, he implicated local government officials for their supposed negligence as they let a shabu lab exist in their town.

This was the subject of a graft complaint filed by Que’s partner months after the publisher’s death. In the February 2017 complaint, Pangilinan alleged that Cua, Virac Mayor Samuel Laynes, and Barangay Palta Small Chairman Hilario Sarmiento “allowed the proliferation of dangerous drugs” because of “gross inexcusable negligence.”

In the time leading up to his death, the Virac social media circle was abuzz with the resurfaced photo of Que and Marcelo Uy, a plasticware retailer. This happened after the raid on the suspected shabu lab disguised as a factory in Barangay Palta Small, which supposedly contained plasticware set for delivery to Uy’s warehouse. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.