LGUs in the Philippines

After Degamo slay, Marcos orders cops to probe ‘political hot spots’

Sofia Tomacruz
After Degamo slay, Marcos orders cops to probe ‘political hot spots’

INVESTIGATE KILLING. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. poses fora photograph with former Negros Oriental Governor Roel Ragay Degamo on October 5, 2022.

Malacañang Photo

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. likens the hot spots to those declared during the election season – where rivalry among political clans is intense and violence is carried out by private armies

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Monday, March 6, that he ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to investigate and identify “hot spots” of local killings and intense political rivalry.

He expressed concern over the back-to-back murders of local officials seen in recent weeks. (READ: LIST: Local officials killed under Marcos gov’t)

In an interview with reporters, Marcos likened his order to government efforts to identify “election hot spots.” The President said he gave the orders to Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos and the PNP.

Sabi ko, gawin ‘nyo uli ngayon. Don’t think of the election first, but think kung ano ‘yung mga hot spot na mainit na mga lugar, at tingnan natin,” Marcos said. (I said, do that again now. Don’t think of the election first, but think of where the hot spots are, where we can see things are heated.) 

Marcos’ latest directive comes after the death of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo on Saturday, March 4. Degamo was killed by heavily armed men – among them former soldiers dishonorably discharged from the Philippine Army – who barged into an aid distribution activity outside his residential compound in Pamplona town, Negros Oriental. 

Marcos earlier warned those involved in Degamo’s killing that the government “will not rest” until perpetrators were held accountable for the crime. 

“The killing of Governor Degamo is entirely unacceptable, and it will not stand. This cannot go unpunished,” he said again on Monday. 

Usually declared by the Commission on Elections, areas considered as “hot spots” are those that have a history of intense rivalry among contending political parties, violence that may be facilitated by private armed groups, the use of loose firearms by unqualified individuals, and serious extremist threat. 

Marcos, referencing some of these criteria, said that one way hotspots would be identified was through locating illegal firearms. 

Basta kakaunti ang illegal firearms, kakaunti ang ganyang klaseng krimen,” he said. (As long as there are few illegal firearms, those kinds of crimes will be few.)

On Degamo’s slay, Marcos said investigations so far had involved “dragnet” operations, where remaining suspects at-large were slowly being cornered into a specific area.

On Monday, the Philippine Army said that a joint operation with the police also led to the seizure of high-powered firearms in Barangay Cansumalig, Bayawan City, Negros Oriental. The firearms were supposedly use in Degamo’s killing, the Army said in a statement. 

ARMS SIEZED. Heavy firearms recovered by combined elements of the 11th Infantry Battalion and Philippine National Police during a joint operation for the slay of Negros Oriental Governor Roel R. Degamo in Barangay Cansumalig, Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, on the early morning of Sunday, March 5, 2023.
Alarming trend

Degamo is now the second incumbent government official to have been killed under the Marcos administration. Five other former local officials were also killed since Marcos took office in end-June 2022. 

Asked whether Degamo’s death was an “isolated incident,” Macros said the governor’s death appeared to be “purely political.”

“That’s why we are looking and getting all the best intelligence we can from our people on the ground to tell us where the places we should be looking at. Where do we need more people, where do we need more personnel, who are the personalities involved, etc – all of these things?” Marcos said. 

Before Degamo’s death, Negros Oriental had been in the news for issues related to escalating political conflict. In October 2022, the poll body nullified the election victory of Henry Teves in the gubernatorial race, paving the way for Degamo to return to the provincial hall. 

In December 2022, Teves’ brother, Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr., likewise claimed that some soldiers and military units from Negros Occidental were involved in a plot to assassinate him and other members of the family.

Marcos said Degamo’s death was “particularly terrifying.” 

“This does not belong in our society. Hindi na p’wede ‘yung ganyan, kaya’t hindi natin pababayaan (This is unacceptable and so we cannot ignore it.),” he said. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.