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MANILA, Philippines – Another suspect in the killing of former Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo surrendered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) over the weekend, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Monday, March 20.
The suspect, whom the DOJ has yet to name, is a former enlisted military personnel who was discharged in 2016 for alleged involvement in illegal drugs, said AFP chief of staff General Andres Centino.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told reporters in a press conference that the suspect, whom the AFP turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation, gave “significant” information that would help them build up a case against the mastermind.
When asked if the task force was building up a case against Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo Teves Jr., Remulla only said that they were “building up a case against the mastermind” but would not say if it was Teves.
This is the sixth suspect identified by the government as involved in the Degamo killing, and the fifth in custody. He is also the fifth suspect to be identified as an ex-military man.
The other ex-military men include Joric Labrador, Joven Javie, and Benjie Rodriguez, who were arrested hours after the killing. Ex-soldier-turned-taxi driver Osmundo Rojas Rivero was arrested on March 5.
The other was killed in an alleged shootout in Bindoy town, Negros Oriental, earlier in March. The joint task force said he was allegedly an ex-rebel. (READ: Degamo slay suspect killed in pursuit operations identified as ex-rebel)
Who is the latest suspect?
Centino would not specify which branch of the military the suspect belonged to, and added that the individual had been in Negros Oriental since 2019, although they would not say what his activities were in the province.
When pressed on the new suspect’s connection to Teves, Remulla was not specific, but said that “naming as a mastermind or [has] participation or role in the crime, there are circumstances which lead you to the conclusion that he was perhaps involved in the crime.”
Teves, who is out of the country officially for medical purposes, has yet to return to the Philippines before his March 20 deadline to return to Congress, which was earlier set by House Speaker Martin Romualdez.
His lawyer Ferdinand Topacio earlier told media in March that the congressman denied involvement in the Degamo killing, saying that he had “nothing to gain” from the governor’s death.
On March 14, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CDIG) announced that complaints had been filed against Teves’ secretary, Hannah Mae Sumerano, and five others who were arrested during raids in some of the congressman’s properties.
On March 15, Teves and his sons Axel and Kurt Matthew were sued for alleged violation of Republic Act (RA) No. 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and RA No. 9516 or the law on explosives.
He is also facing murder complaints for at least three killings that happened in Negros Oriental province in 2019 including former provincial board member Miguel Dungog, Lester Pialago Bato, and Pacito Libron.
The Teveses are the political rivals of Degamo. His brother, Pryde Henry, who was initially installed as governor after the May 2022 election, was removed from office in September 2022. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc declared a certain “Ruel Degamo” a nuisance candidate, and credited his 49,000 votes to the late Degamo. (READ: How Degamo unseated Teves as Negros Oriental governor months after the May 2022 polls)
Degamo was laid to rest on Thursday, March 16, where thousands of his supporters came to Siaton town to pay their last respects to the governor. – Rappler.com