CEBU, Philippines – On orders of the national government, four suspects in the March 4 attack that killed Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and eight others were transferred first to Camp Crame the general headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and later to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) central office on Tuesday, March 7.
At a press briefing, Police Lieutenant Colonel Gerard Ace Pelare, spokesperson of the Central Visayas-based Special Investigation Task Group, said that two of the suspects would be evaluated for enrollment in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Pelare did not identiy the two men, but added “they have shared substantial information on the crime committed.”
Early Tuesday morning, on arrival in the national capital, the two suspects who offered to turn witnesses were immediately turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for protective custody.
The other two suspects remained with the PNP.
Late afternoon, however, the DOJ issued a statement saying the two other respondents “likewise expressed their intention to cooperate”.
“The statements made by the respondents are in the verification process at the time of this writing,” the DOJ said. “The specific motive for the murder has yet to be confirmed.”
Also on March 7, sets of information for three counts of murder and frustrated murder were filed in the Regional Trial Court in Tanjay, Negros Oriental against ex-soldiers Joric Labrador, Joven Javie, and Benjie Rodriguez, taxi driver Osmundo Rojas Rivero, and 12 other John Does.
Separate sets of information for three counts of illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives were also filed against the three ex-soldiers, who were arrested in Bayawan City past 4 pm of March 4.
At the press briefing, Pelare said
Ballistic examination of the assault rifles recovered at Bayawan City late afternoon of March 4 had fingerprints matching those of the four arrested suspects.
The cartridges and shells found in the crime scene also matched those of the firearms seized from the three former soldiers, he added.
The attack happened past 9 am on March 4. Degamo was pronounced dead at 11:41 am, said his wife, Pamplona, Negros Oriental Mayor Janice Degamo.
Aside from Degamo, the assailants also killed Jessie Bot-ay, Jose Marie Ramirez, Jomar Canseco, Crispin Vallega, Jerome Maquiling, Florenda Quinikito, Joseph Retaada, and Michael Fabugais.
The DOJ said it is coordinating with the PNP for any future cases that may be filed in relation to the Degamo slay.
Police said the registered owners of the vehicles used in the attack are based in Cebu. “We are now currently investigating if the owners of these vehicles had something to do with this crime or if they were stolen” said Pelare.
The blood stains and marks on one abandoned vehicle in Bayawan City, believed to have been also been used by the suspects, were also examined for DNA matching for the suspects, he added.
Pelare said the order to send the suspects to the Camp Crame came from the national government. “The control of the prosecution is in the hands of the DOJ,” Pelare said. “Our job is to turn them over to the DOJ.”
The three former soldiers had career tracks indicating they were highly trained.
Rodriguez, 45, was part of the 35th Infantry Battalion of the 11th Infantry Division (11ID).
The 50-year-old Labrador, a security escort of Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez until his dismissal in 2014 on drug charges, served in the military intelligence unit and the Mechanized Infantry Battalion of 4ID.
Javier, 42, a resident of La Castellana, Negros Occidental, had served with the Light Reaction Battalion, the Army’s top counterterrorist unit.
While some social reports claim six persons have been arrested, Pelare said the task force figures are four suspects, and one other suspect slain during pursuit operations.
The PNP has fresh forces on the ground in Bayawan City, where the entire police force has been relieved, the officer added.
The head of the Land Transportation Office in Region 7, meanwhile, said they were in “close coordination” with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) 7 and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7, to “ensure relevant and timely information are available on the vehicles-of-interest in the assassination of Degamo.”
LTO regional director Emmanuel Caindec said details on these vehicles remain confidential to safeguard ongoing investigations by law enforcers.
This is a breaking story and Rappler will update as developments arrive. – Rappler.com
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