Negros killings

Remulla on Degamo slay probe: No one is exempted

Jairo Bolledo

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Remulla on Degamo slay probe: No one is exempted

DOJ HEAD. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla attends the adoption of duties, powers and general jurisdiction of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights on August 17, 2022.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

'We're investigating everybody who may have something to do with what has been happening in Negros Oriental. We are not exempting anybody,' says Justice Secretary Boying Remulla

MANILA, Philippines – Days after the brazen killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said authorities would probe anyone who might have a possible connection to the governor’s death.

“We’re investigating everybody who may have something to do with what has been happening in Negros Oriental. Bar none. We are not exempting anybody,” Remulla told reporters on Thursday, March 9. “Basta ang sinasabi ko sa inyo (What I’m telling you is), we’re investigating anybody with the possible culpability. Bar none. Bar none. We will not exempt anybody.”

The DOJ chief’s remarks were in response to a reporter’s question on whether the Philippine government was officially probing Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. over Degamo’s death. He added the justice department was also investigating other murder cases “that are being bruited about.”

Remulla also noted that authorities were seeing a “pattern of impunity” in Negros Oriental.

“What comes out is a pattern. It’s a pattern of impunity that we did not sense before. It is something that is so new to us. I mean, now, it’s very hard to imagine this happening before. But now that this happened, the stories are beginning to make sense that there was a pattern of impunity within the area.”

On Saturday, March 4, Negros Oriental’s longtime governor was killed, along with eight others, by armed assailants wearing camouflage uniforms and bulletproof vests and using long firearms. Degamo, 56, was killed just outside his family’s residential compound in Barangay 9, in Pamplona town, while attending an event for 4Ps beneficiaries.

According to his wife, Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, the late governor passed away at around 11:41 am. Some hours later, in a short report, the Bayawan City police station said three persons were arrested in hot pursuit operations at around 4:20 pm in Sitio Punong, Barangay Kansumalig, Bayawan City.

Three days later, on Tuesday, March 7, murder and illegal possession of firearms complaints were filed against the suspects. The result of the ballistic examination on the assault rifles recovered in Bayawan City on Saturday also matched with the fingerprints of the arrested, the Philippine National Police Central Visayas said.

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After the death of Degamo, who was among the Teveses’ political rivals, Arnie Teves said his clan would not benefit from the governor’s death.

On Tuesday, the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group filed a multiple murder complaint against Teves and five others in relation to the Negros Oriental killings in 2019, including the assassination of late former Negros Oriental board member Miguel Dungog. The slain provincial official was Degamo’s ally.

‘Big personality’

In a GMA News report, two of the suspects behind Degamo’s death, Joven Javier and Osmundo Rivero, revealed that a “big personality” was behind Degamo’s demise. The two suspects, who are said to be former members of the military, revealed the information in their extrajudicial confession.

The alleged mastermind also used a middleman named “Marvin” in coordinating the assassination plot. According to the suspects, they had at least four plans for how the governor would be killed:

  • ambush
  • sniper attack
  • intercept while visiting his constituents
  • attack in the house

Javier, who is said to be a former sniper, said he would give the necessary information in exchange for his family’s protection. Meanwhile, Rivero claimed he was not paid to kill the governor – instead, he was forced to take part in the crime because his loved ones were threatened.

The two suspects already coordinated with the National Bureau of Investigation and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. All four suspects are currently under the NBI’s custody, PNP spokesperson Colonel Jean Fajardo said during the Laging Handa briefing on Thursday.

Replace cops in Negros Oriental

Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos said on Tuesday that he ordered the replacement of all police personnel in Bayawan City and other local government units in Negros Oriental. Following that order, the PNP relieved the entire Bayawan City police on the same day.

Fajardo said on Thursday that after the Bayawan City police, cops from Santa Catalina were also transferred. More cops from Negros Oriental would be transferred in the coming days, she added. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.