Former Catanduanes Police Officer Vincent Tacorda, who initially confessed and later retracted his statement of killing 54-year-old Catanduanes-based newspaper publisher Larry Sy Que, was found guilty in a separate case of frustrated murder.
In an 11-page verdict released on Friday, February 14, 2020, Virac Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 42 Presiding Judge Genie G. Gapas-Agbada convicted Tacorda in the attempted murder of Samuel Rojas, a Department of Education (DepEd) personnel in San Jose, Viga. Rojas was shot by Tacorda on August 10, 2016, inflicting a gunshot wound in the middle of his spinal column but then 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 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. I commend the PTFoMS Secretariat led by Usec. Joel Sy Egco and the team of investigators who worked on the case, ” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary and PTFoMS Co-Chair Martin M. Andar said as he welcomed the court decision on Tacorda.
Undersecretary Joel Egco, 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.”
“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,” Egco added.
He stressed, “Tacorda will never escape the wrath of the law, as this administration is relentless in pursuing justice for all media workers.”
Egco also commended the NBI agents and other investigators who worked on the case.
On May 2, 2017, accompanied by the PTFoMs, Edralyn Pangilinan, Que’s common-law spouse, filed a murder complaint to the Department of Justice (DOJ) against the 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 that links to Que’s murder case and the confession of Tacorda has no probative value. 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 Rojas shooting.
Que’s death is considered as the first incident of media killing under the Duterte administration. He was shot in the head, allegedly by Tacorda, 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./Stacy Ang