Degamo prosecutors replaced; suspect surrenders
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla yesterday confirmed that he is replacing all of the state prosecutors handling the assassination case of Negros Oriental Roel Degamo to remove any perception of bias for or against those being investigated.
“We are about to do that; we’re working on that now,” Remulla said, adding, “as many as necessary,” when asked how many prosecutors in the province would be affected by the reshuffle.
He also denied accusations of a coverup after DoJ prosecutors junked one of nine illegal possession of firearms complaints against Teves and people close to him, namely his secretary Hannah Mae Oray and her husband.
“As far as we’re concerned, the cases that we need to prove are being pursued properly. There is no cover-up here,” he said.
Also on Monday, authorities announced the surrender of another former soldier described as a “major player” in the killing of Degamo and eight others in Pamplona town on 4 March.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos revealed during a press conference of the Joint Task Force Degamo at the DoJ in Manila that the surrendered suspect has been providing “very critical information” that they are validating.
Four suspects in the killings — Joric Garido Labrador, Joven Calibjo Javier, Benjie Buladola Rodriguez, and Osmundo Rojas Rivero — were arrested during a hot pursuit operation in Bayawan City.
Another suspect identified as Arnil Labradilla died in an encounter with authorities.
Thus far, 30 criminal complaints had been filed against the four suspects and the 12 still unidentified persons linked to the killing pinned by at least one of the alleged participants to Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr.
“That is why we are speeding up our operations and we can see that the confidence of the people in the province is being restored,” said Abalos, who earlier replaced police personnel in the province.
Soldiers had also been deployed to secure the province where the DoJ is investigating more than 10 other reports of killings.
The Philippine National Police last week tagged Teves n the killing of three persons in 2019.
Remulla said they are still looking to arrest at least 10 more suspects in the killing of Degamo.
On the petition filed by Degamo’s widow, Pamplona Mayor Jance Degamo, before the House of Representatives seeking Teves’ expulsion, Remulla said such an action is possible under the rules of the House.
Teves has remained abroad after his medical leave expired and the House refused to extend it.
The House Ethics Committee yesterday summoned him, demanding his physical presence at the congressional probe on the Degamo killing.
Panel chairperson Felimon Espares said Teves would be sanctioned if he failed to appear in person in the next hearing.
“Virtual (presence) is not allowed. We need his physical appearance, meaning it’s him to really report here at the House,” Espares said. “[It’s an] ultimatum.”
With Edjen Oliquino and Glen Jacob Jose
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