At about 6:30 p.m. on August 19, an unidentified gunman shot Villarante as he was standing in front of his house, according to reports in Philippine and international press. After being shot, Villarante was able to run inside the house. As Villarante and his relatives left the house en route to the hospital, the gunman shot Villarante twice in the head, killing him instantly.
The motive behind Villarante's killing is unclear. As a reporter for radio station DZJV and a columnist for the local Laguna Score newspaper, Villarante was known for his reports on corruption and criminal behavior by the police and local officials, said press reports. Santa Cruz police chief superintendent Renato Paras told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that investigators were hesitant to reveal too many details about the case as high profile individuals could be behind the killing.
According to CPJ research, two journalists have been murdered for their work this year in the Philippines. On July 8, Bonifacio Gregorio, a reporter and columnist for the weekly Dyaryo Banat, was shot by an unidentified gunman in La Paz in the central Tarlac Province. Apolinario Pobeda, a radio broadcaster, was gunned down on May 17. Neither of these cases has been solved.