Degamo primed for turkey shoot?
Was Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo set up for an easy kill? An inside job maybe? A conspiracy involving the police?
These questions surfaced Sunday as Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla ordered the police security personnel of the governor to be put under investigation.
“Of the six officers assigned to Governor Degamo, only one was present that day. Five did not show up. That should be investigated,” Remulla said. “It’s their job to watch his house. But on that day, they were absent.”
Remulla also castigated the leadership of the Philippine National Police in Region 7 for “failure of intelligence,” noting that the police assigned to Degamo did not provide perimeter security.
House Speaker Martin Romualdez also called for a congressional probe on the “highly suspicious” absence of the security officers assigned to Degamo on 4 March.
It was Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito who revealed Saturday night the absence of five of Degamo’s six security details when the governor and eight others were killed inside his residence’s compound in the town of Pamplona, Negros Oriental.
Ejercito, however, did not name who the absent policemen were or from whom he received the information.
In a statement, Romualdez pointed out the similarity between the killing of Degamo and the 2019 assassination of Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe.
Two of three of Batocabe’s police guards also did not show up for work on the day he was killed, according to Romualdez.
The House leader said stricter measures to ensure Degamo’s safety should have been put in place by the PNP as the governor had earlier reported to the police the threats to his life.
“That’s why it’s highly suspicious why these police escorts were missing on the day he was killed,” Romualdez said, theorizing that the killers had known Degamo had no or little protection that day.
He added that while he doesn’t want to “blindly accuse anyone,” the circumstances “apparently point to the collusion between some members of the PNP and the perpetrators of this dastardly act.”
Four men, including three ex-soldiers, had been arrested and tagged as members of the squad that killed Degamo commando-style, armed with rifles and wearing flak vests, while he was handing financial aid to his constituents.
Another suspect was killed in the follow-up police and military operation, with at least five more men being sought for their alleged participation in the murderous rampage.
In an interview with reporters, one of the suspects tagged Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves as the mastermind in the Degamo killing.
The congressman, who was charged last week for the killing of three people in 2019, has remained in the United States purportedly for medical treatment.
Teves’ permission to travel from the House, from 28 February to 9 March, had lapsed with only his chief of staff seeking its extension.
A House official said the extension request was not valid as it should have been made personally by the congressman.
Teves earlier last week denied he and his brother Pryde Henry Teves have anything to do with Degamo’s slaying.
Henry was unseated by the Commission on Elections in October last year after ordering a recount and declaring Degamo as the legitimate winner in the Negros Oriental 2022 gubernatorial election.
The Supreme Court last February upheld the Comelec decision.
Meanwhile, the PNP, in a hastily called press conference on Saturday, said Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos will lead Special Task Force Degamo which was formed to ensure the prosecution of all those involved in the crime.
Remulla and acting Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. are serving as vice chairs, with PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., Armed Forces chief Gen. Andres Centino and National Bureau of Investigation director Medardo de Lemos appointed as task force members.
The task force will also address security issues in Negros Oriental, the PNP said.
The police also reported Saturday that two more assault rifles that may have been used in the Degamo killing were retrieved in Sitio Palasanun, Barangay Cansumalig, Bayawan City, Negros Oriental on Friday.
The firearms were sent to the PNP crime laboratory for ballistics to determine if they were used in the Pamplona attack.
With GLEN JACOB JOSE
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