Former Catanduanes police officer Vincent Tacorda, who initially confessed, but later denied his statement of killing 54-year-old Catanduanes-based newspaper publisher Larry Sy Que, was found guilty in a separate frustrated murder case.
In an 11-page decision released on February 14, Virac Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 42 Presiding Judge Genie G. Gapas-Agbada convicted Tacorda in the attempted murder of Samuel Rojas, an employee of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Viga, Catanduanes. Rojas was shot by Tacorda on August 16, 2016, inflicting a gunshot wound in his spinal column but survived the attack.
Fearing that Tacorda might recant his statement on killing Que, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) found out about the attempt on Rojas’ life and immediately tasked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a parallel probe on the Viga shooting incident, which can steer for stronger evidence to pin down Tacorda on Que’s murder case.
“In one way or another, justice has been achieved.”
“In one way or another, justice has been achieved and we’ll make sure that the likes of Tacorda will feel the force of the law. The verdict may have been for another reason, but the Duterte administration will always ensure that justice will be served and protect media workers,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary and PTFoMS co-chair Martin Andar said as he welcomed the court decision on Tacorda.
Andanar commended the PTFoMS Secretariat led by Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco and the team of investigators who worked on the case.
Sy Egco, the PTFoMS executive director, likened the case to the notorious American gangster Al Capone, and said: “This is the same policeman who initially confessed to the killing of Catanduanes journalist Larry Que but eventually retracted.”
“While the Que case did not prosper due to lack of sufficient evidence despite his admission (and retraction), the court found him guilty in the Rojas case.”
“At that time, we found out about this shooting case in Viga and asked the NBI to conduct a parallel investigation. While the Que case did not prosper due to lack of sufficient evidence despite his admission (and retraction), the court found him guilty in the Rojas case,” he added.
Sy Egco said Tacorda will never escape the wrath of the law as this administration is relentless in pursuing justice for all media workers.
He also lauded the NBI agents and other investigators who worked on the case.
On May 2, 2017, accompanied by the PTFoMs, Edralyn Pangilinan, Que’s partner, filed a murder complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ) against now-Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua, Prince Lim Subion, Vince Masagca, two John Does and Tacorda.
However, the DOJ later released a resolution dismissing the complaint due to insufficient evidence. According to the DOJ, the dismissal of the complaints despite Tacorda’s extrajudicial confession does not support conviction where it is uncorroborated and denied by the alleged confessant himself and, given the insufficiency of evidence, it would be unfair to hold Tacorda for trial.
Hence, the Task Force conducted a continuing investigation together with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) for a more intensive and focused probe. This is while the NBI was building up the case regarding the Viga shooting.
Que’s death is considered as the first incident of media killing under the Duterte administration. He was shot in the head on December 19, 2016, as he was about to enter the building, where his insurance firm is located in Virac. He died the following day.