NEGROS Oriental Governor Roel Degamo was shot to death on March 4 in his residential compound in Pamplona town while he was meeting with his constituents.
The brutal incident also left eight civilians dead and 17 others injured.
According to the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG), their probe is nearing completion, as criminal complaints of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder against the four arrested suspects and 12 John Does were already lodged before the Prosecutor’s Office.
Lt. Col. Gerard Ace Pelare, SITG spokesperson of Police Regional Office (PRO)-7, said Thursday, March 9, that 10 suspects were linked as direct participants to the commission of the crime, while others served tagged as facilitators or conspirators, and the alleged mastermind.
Negros Oriental Representative Arnolfo "Arnie" Teves Jr. was tagged as mastermind in the killing of the governor and the innocent civilians, according to the statement of the suspects in a media interview in Manila.
Pelare did not reveal this development to the public pending the manhunt operation against the suspects.
"The declarations made publicly earlier by one of the suspects in Governor Degamo's killing were information that we already acquired from the moment we arrested the four suspects, six hours after the incident. While we had these significant developments at hand at the early stage of the conduct of massive hot pursuit operations, we maintained that these be revealed in due time so as not to compromise the conduct of investigations," the SITG spokesperson said.
Based on the SITG investigation, the perpetrators were gathered from different places, with some coming from Mindanao, before the killing, Pelare said.
He also said that they were briefed regarding the mode of operation against the slain governor in a safe house. "They were choosing among the options they had until they were able to find the opportune time to launch the attack that day," Pelare said.
A facilitator, a middleman, was tasked with the recruitment, planning, and putting the suspects in a safe house, he said, though he refused to provide further details.
"We are nearing in the solution of this crime, as we already have the true picture of what happened before, during, and after the incident," Pelare said.
Here’s a rundown of events relevant to the case, based on news reports, press briefings, and statements.
According to one of the suspects, casing and surveillance against Degamo were done as early as December 2022, Pelare said.
He, however, pointed out that he was not sure if the suspects had already penetrated the security detail of the governor at that time.
The police are also looking into a possible "inside job," as someone in the compound was a conspirator in the killing, he said.
WEEKS BEFORE ASSASSINATION
Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, wife of the governor, said in a media interview on March 5 that their house is very near a military detachment, which is why the attack was very unexpected, although she revealed that in the past few weeks, they noticed suspicious individuals in the area.
Degamo's wife also said that based on the footage from the closed-circuit television, the assassination of the governor was well organized and well planned.
Degamo was gunned down, along with eight civilians, while 17 others were injured.
Hours after the gun attack, footage from the closed-circuit television that captured Degamo’s assassination went viral on the social media site Facebook.
The video showed the six assailants, who were armed with high-powered firearms and looked like they had gun training, opened fire on the premises, fatally hitting the victims, including the governor.
In a pursuit operation, the three suspected getaway vehicles involved in the Degamo assassination were found abandoned in Brgy. Cansumalig, Bayawan City.
This also led to the capture of three suspected killers of Degamo, who turned out to be former military men.
They were arrested hours later at Sitio Punong, Brgy. Cansumalig, Bayawan City.
Later that night, pursuing authorities cornered the fourth suspect, who was hiding in a plantation in Bayawan City, which led to a shootout, resulting in his death.
As of this writing, Pelare said the police have yet to identify the assailant.
Pursuing authorities recovered a cache of firearms and explosives believed to have been used in the assassination of Degamo in Barangay Cansumalig, Bayawan City.
The fifth suspect was also arrested in Bayawan.
Charges for illegal possession of firearms and explosives have already been filed at the fiscal’s office in Bayawan City against Joric Labrador, 50, a former member of the Philippine Army (PA) from Cagayan de Oro City; Joven Aber, 42, an ex-Army ranger, from Barangay Robles, Las Castellana, Negros Occidental; Benjie Rodriguez, 45, from Mindanao; and Osmundo Rivero, an ex-soldier from Zamboanga City who worked as a taxi driver.
Another multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges have been filed against the suspects before the Negros Oriental Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.
Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo "Arnie" Teves Jr. has denied rumors that his family, particularly him and his brother, were behind the brutal killing of the governor and eight others.
Philippine National Police chief General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. admitted that there was "negligence" on the part of the police in relation to the assassination of Degamo.
Criminal charges were filed against Teves and five others before the Department of Justice in Manila. The cases involved at least three killing incidents in 2019.
The five injured victims also took sworn statements in connection with the murders of the governor and eight others.
Also, according to the results of an autopsy conducted by the Philippine National Police's regional forensic unit, the governor sustained 11 bullet wounds in his body.
The firearms and explosives recovered from the four suspects during a follow-up operation also underwent ballistic examination, and the results revealed that these were used in the murders of Degamo and eight others.
The four arrested suspects were transferred to the Custodial Center in Camp Crame to ensure their protection while the investigation is ongoing.
The entire police force of Bayawan City was relieved over Degamo’s murder.
President Ferdinand visited the wake of Degamo in Dumaguete City, and assured justice for the family of all victims who died in the brutal attack.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said that the arrested suspects have a video while having a discussion with the mastermind.
Teves has been named by one of the suspects as mastermind in the killing of the governor. The solon has earlier denied allegations that they were involved in the incident.
The remains of Degamo were transferred to the Provincial Capitol for public viewing from March 9 to 12.
The police force of Sta. Catalina was also relieved of their posts in relation to the ongoing manhunt operation against the remaining suspects.*
The dedication wall for the late Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo is almost full barely a day after it was put up at the Provincial Capitol Forecourt. (Negros Oriental LGU photo)
March 10, 2023
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