SC approves Degamo case transfer to Manila

The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the request of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla to transfer the cases filed and will be filed in connection with the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo to Manila.

Remulla made the request through a letter addressed to Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo dated 9 March 2023 and coursed through Court Administrator Raul B. Villanueva.

SC Spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said Remulla’s letter was discussed during yesterday’s regular en banc session of the magistrates.

Remulla in his letter cited several reasons for seeking the transfer of the cases, including the possible intimidation and harassment of the respondents, private complainants and their witnesses, considering that three of the victims are government officials.

He also said the case has gained significant media attention in Negros Oriental, thus creating a hostile environment for the respondents.

The DOJ chief also raised the logistical difficulties of conducting the trial in the province, pointing that the respondents are currently detained at the National Bureau of Investigation-Custodial Center in Manila. The facilities in the province may not be adequate to handle the high-profile Degamo murder case and there could be security issues with the transportation and handing of the respondents, said Remulla.

Court Administrator Villanueva expressed no objection to Remulla’s request. “A change of venue to Manila would be in the best interest of all parties involved” and it “will provide a neutral venue where the trial can be conducted fairly and impartially, free from any undue influence or bias,” he said.

For “all future cases” that may be filed in relation to the subject charges now pending before the courts in Negros Oriental, Villanueva recommended that the Court may also order their transfer t to the Manila RTC once these are filed in the proper courts in Negros Oriental.

Three counts of murder and frustrated murder have already been filed before the Regional Trial Court of Tanjay City, Negros Oriental against four suspects and 12 other “John Does.”

The four were identified as Joven Javier, Benjie Rodriguez, Joric Labrador and Osmundo Rivero.

Another set of information for three counts of violation of laws on the illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives against three of the respondents were also filed before the RTC of Bayawan City.

The four suspects are believed to be among a group of at least 10 heavily-armed men who barged into the compound of Degamo’s residence in Barangay Isidro in Pamplona, Negros Oriental last 4 March and fired at the governor and some civilians availing of financial assistance being given to poor families.

The four accused were taken into custody by the NBI after they agreed to divulge more information in connection with the crime.

Remulla earlier said Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. and several others are among those being looked into by investigators as possible conspirators in the killing.

He made the statement after two of the four suspects named Teves as the mastermind in the killing.

The solon, who is still out of the country following stem cell treatment in the United States, has denied the accusation.

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