Photo by Arnold Bustamante
Photo by Arnold Bustamante

Suspects in Degamo murder turned over to DOJ as possible witnesses

TWO of the four people who were arrested during a hot pursuit operation and are suspected of killing Negros Oriental Governor Roel Ragay Degamo and eight other individuals have been turned over to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila.

Lieutenant Colonel Gerard Ace Pelare, spokesperson of Special Investigation Task Group, said the four suspects were brought to the national police headquarters detention on Monday, March 6.

The DOJ will now decide which of the suspects will be included in the department's Witness Protection Program (WPP) after the task force filed charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, multiple murder, and multiple frustrated murder before the fiscal's office in Bayawan City and the Negros Oriental Prosecutor's Office against the suspects.

“We forwarded the case or the complaints to the DOJ. The control of the prosecution is in their hands already. They will assess if they will be qualified to become state witnesses. Our job is just to turn them over after we have referred the cases to the DOJ,” Pelare said.

But Pelare did not divulge which of the suspects will qualify for the WPP.

The suspects were identified as Joric Labrador, 50, an ex-soldier from Cagayan de Oro City; Joven Aber, 42, ex-Army ranger from Barangay Robles, Las Castellana, Negros Occidental; Benjie Rodriguez, 45, from Mindanao; and Osmundo Rivero, a taxi driver and former member of the Philippine Army from Zamboanga City.

Pelare had said earlier that the suspects disclosed who ordered them to kill the governor but he declined to divulge their mastermind pending their ongoing investigation.

“Yes, they have shared substantial information in relation to the crime committed. I know you understand I couldn’t give specific details because as we speak, may mga operatives pa po tayo sa ground, hinahanap pa yung remaining (suspects),” Pelare said.

Pelare reaffirmed that based on the cross matching done by the PNP Scene of the Crime Operatives, the long weapons seized during the follow-up operation had matched with the empty shells recovered from the inside the residential compound of Degamo, where the attack took place.

Meanwhile, the blood sample taken from one of the vehicles used by the suspects has been sent to the PNP Regional Forensic Unit 7 for DNA profiling.

The owners of the three vehicles used by the suspects that the police have been able to identify in coordination with the Land Transportation Office-Central Visayas (LTO 7) are also being investigated.

Pelare said one of the owners came from Cebu and that they had already coordinated with the person in question.

Among the items that will be examined in the investigation are the cellphones recovered from the four suspects that are in the custody of the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group in Manila.

Pelare admitted that one of the four suspects was the security escort of Cagayan de Oro Second District Representative Rufus Rodriguez.

But he explained that the congressman fired him after being involved in illegal drugs. (AYB/TPT)

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