Roel Degamo

Almost all suspects in Degamo slay recant confessions

Ryan Macasero

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Almost all suspects in Degamo slay recant confessions

TASK FORCE. The Joint Task Force Degamo led by Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos, Secretary of Justice Jesus Crispin Remulla and Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., hold a press briefing at Camp Crame on April 3, 2023.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

The latest suspects to recant are Winrich Esturis, Eugelio Gonyon Jr., John Louie Gonyon, Joric Labrador, and Benjie Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines – Five more suspects in the murder of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo recanted their confessions before the Manila Regional Trial Court on on Wednesday, May 31.

The latest suspects to recant are Winrich Esturis, Eugelio Gonyon Jr., John Louie Gonyon, Joric Labrador, and Benjie Rodriguez.

The five are represented by lawyer Jord Valenton, who claimed his clients were tortured into confessing to participating in the assassination.

Jhudiel (also known as Osmundo) Rivero, Rogelio Antipolo Jr., Romel Pattaguan, Dahniel Lora, and previously recanted their confessions last May 22, while Joven Javier recanted on May 26. They are all represented by lawyer Danny Villanueva.

They earlier also confessed to their participation in the massacre and tagged Negros Oriental Congressman Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves as the mastermind after they were arrested, but later on said they were tortured into doing this confession.

All 11 suspects, including alleged co-mastermind Marvin Miranda, filed a motion to quash, claiming their arrests were done illegally.

Villanueva also filed a motion to suppress evidence on behalf of his clients to exclude their confessions from trial.

All of the suspects were supposed to be arraigned at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 51 on Wednesday, but this will be delayed to a later date pending the judge’s decision on the motions.

Following the hearing, Justice Secretary Boying Remulla denied that the arrests were done illegally.

Nine other people were also slain along with Degamo in what is also known as the “Pamplona massacre.”

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The first four of the suspects submitted their affidavits of recantation on Monday, May 22, and the fifth suspect, Joven Javier, recanted on Friday, May 26.

Why it matters

Almost all of the suspects in the the high-profile political assassination have recanted so far.

Despite the retractions, Remulla believes in the strength of the case.

June 4 will mark the third month since the Degamo killing. In the three months since the massacre, 11 suspects have been arrested by the government’s Joint Task Force Degamo and one killed in a hot pursuit operation.

Teves has been at the center of the government’s investigation and a series of Senate inquiries. He was in the United States at the time of the assassination and has yet to return to the country.

The suspended congressman continues to deny any involvement in the March 4 massacre.

He previously applied for political asylum in the Southeast Asian nation of Timor-Leste, but was denied, according to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

Degamo’s assassination has brought national attention and stirred conversations on the long-running problem of unsolved killings in Negros Island. –

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Nobuhiko Matsunaka


Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at