Larry Que, publisher of the weekly community newspaper Catanduanes News Now, was shot in the head at close range on December 19, 2016, while entering an office building in Virac, in the northeastern province of Catanduanes, according to news reports.
A gunman wearing a helmet, bonnet, and raincoat escaped on a motorcycle driven by an accomplice, news reports said. Que died early the following day while receiving treatment at the Eastern Bicol Medical Center.
Teresa Reyes, an off-duty police officer who witnessed the crime, said Que was returning from the local Land Transportation Office when he was shot in front of his insurance company’s office building, reports said.
Que was shot soon after his newspaper published a column he wrote alleging "official negligence" over an illegal methamphetamine laboratory that had been recently raided by police, news reports said.
The article speculated that the illegal plant, which news reports said was the largest ever discovered in the Philippines, may have been established by Chinese nationals working with ethnic Chinese residents of the province, reports said.
On May 2, 2017, Edralyn Pangilinan, Que’s wife, filed a murder complaint with the Department of Justice in Manila against Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua, police officer Vincent Tacorda, Cua’s associate Prince Lim Subion, and two other “John Does,” GMA News Online reported.
She said in a press statement issued by the Office of the Ombudsman that she believes Cua hired a hitman to “silence” Que, local reports said. The Presidential Task Force on Media Security, a government body charged with resolving media murder cases, accompanied Pangilinan when she filed the murder complaint, reports said.
The task force said it considers Que’s killing as work-related. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, an independent organization that campaigns for press freedom, likewise said it believes Que’s murder was related to his journalism.
Que had named Cua as the person responsible for the drug laboratory in his article, the GMA report said. The report said Que had planned an “ultimate exposé” of Cua’s alleged involvement in the drug trade, but was killed before the edition was published, the same news report said.
Cua denied any links to the drug laboratory or Que’s killing, according to local reports.
On August 1, 2018, an ombudsman office ruling dismissed graft and misconduct charges that Pangilinan had filed against Cua on February 1, 2017, citing lack of evidence that he had involvement in the drug laboratory, news reports said.
The murder complaint against Cua and the other suspects was still under investigation by the Philippine National Police as of August 2020, according to a task force statement addressed to CPJ.
Que was also the owner of a local insurance company and unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Virac, according to media reports.