crimes in the Philippines

Who is Roel Degamo, the slain Negros Oriental governor?

Jairo Bolledo

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Who is Roel Degamo, the slain Negros Oriental governor?

SLAIN. Photo of late Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo who was killed on March 4, 2023.

Malacañang photo

With political experience of over 20 years, Degamo has won all of his four gubernatorial bids

MANILA, Philippines – In another brazen killing of a local government official, Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, 56, was shot dead just outside their family’s residential compound on Saturday, March 4.

According to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Negros Oriental, the killing happened in Barangay 9, in Pamplona town. He was pronounced dead at around 11:41 am, as confirmed by his wife Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo in a video message.

Degamo was shot dead when he was attending an event for 4Ps beneficiaries. PNP Central Visayas said six assailants used long firearms and fled the scene aboard two SUVs. He is the latest local government official to be killed under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Aparri, Cagayan Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda was killed in an ambush in Nueva Vizcaya on February 19.

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From engineer to politician

Degamo’s parents are Arturo Degamo and Luzviminda Ragay, according to his profile published by the Metro Post. A native of Negros Oriental, he was born in Barangay Bonawon in Siaton town on April 29, 1966. Degamo has three siblings.

He finished his primary education at Pio Macahig Memorial School, and his secondary at the St. Louis School in Dumaguete City. Degamo later studied mechanical engineering at Silliman University and obtained his degree in 1989. He passed the licensure exam in the same year.

Before entering politics, Degamo worked as a driver for the National Power Corporation. He was also a senior plant mechanic and electrical control operator for the National Power Corporation-Palawan.

Political career

In 2010, he was elected provincial member of Negros Oriental – garnering the highest votes in his province’s third legislative district. Later on, he assumed the vice gubernatorial post after then-Negros Oriental vice governor Agustin Perdices succeeded then-governor Emilio Macias II who died due to liver cancer in June 2010.

Degamo eventually became governor in January 2011 after Perdices also passed away.

After completing the terms of Macias and Perdices, Degamo ran as governor of his province in 2013. At that time, his party, PDP-Laban, was neither as powerful nor influential as it is today – but Degamo managed to win against his opponents from big parties like the Nationalist People’s Coalition and the then-ruling party, Liberal Party.

Degamo won all four of his gubernatorial bids: 2013, 2016, 2019, and 2022. He ran under the banner of the National Unity Party in 2016, and under the Nacionalista Party in 2019 and 2022.

The slain governor entered politics in 1998 after he was elected councilor of the town of Siatown, and served in the same position until 2007. Degamo served as president of the Philippine Councilors League (PCL)-Negros Oriental Chapter from 2004 to 2007. He was later elected chairperson of the PCL Central Visayas.

Long road to 2022 polls victory

A year before the 2022 national and local elections, Degamo asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to declare a certain Ruel Degamo as a nuisance candidate in their gubernatorial race. On December 16 of that year, the Comelec’s Second Division sided with Degamo and declared Ruel – the other Degamo – a nuisance candidate.

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Since the decision was only made at the division level, Ruel Degamo appealed it to the Comelec’s en banc. Since the en banc’s decision had yet to be made at the time ballots were being printed, Ruel Degamo’s name was still included in the printed ballots. The May 9 polls also pushed through where the same ballots were used.

Henry Teves, Degamo’s competitor, was first declared winner in the gubernatorial poll in 2022. But Degamo brought the case to the Supreme Court, which granted Degamo’s petition for mandamus. The High Court compelled the Comelec en banc to act on the pending petition.

The Comelec later annulled Teves’ proclamation and declared Roel Degamo as the true winner of the race. Nineteen days before Degamo was slain, on February 14, the High Court affirmed the Comelec en banc’s decision declaring Degamo’s victory.

Challenges, controversies

In the 2022 elections, Degamo ran for the fourth time despite having completed his three terms. He argued this was possible because he was dismissed from office twice by the Office of the Ombudsman.

In 2016 and 2017, Degamo briefly left his position after the Ombudsman ordered him dismissed from office on two separate occasions for alleged misuse of funds. He was able to secure temporary restraining orders from the Court of Appeals in relation to these, so he was able to continue with his term.

The late governor used the case of former Camarines Norte governor Edgar Tallado, wherein the High Court noted that the Ombudsman’s suspensions and dismissals were considered “involuntary interruptions” in his political term.

After Degamo was proclaimed Negros Oriental governor, the Comelec junked the petition to block his candidacy on the ground that he was running for the fourth time. –

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Jairo Bolledo

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