Members of the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office (Noppo), Philippine Army and the Special Action Force found them at 4:20 p.m. on Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Sitio Punong in Barangay Cansumalig, a one-hour drive from the crime scene.
It was not clear yet what role Joric Labrador, 50; Joven Aber, 42; and Benjie Rodriguez, 45, played in the killing of Degamo and nine other individuals in Barangay San Isidro, Sto. Nuebe in Pamplona town.
Labrador and Aber are former Army officers.
A hot pursuit is ongoing to arrest the other suspects.
Lt. Col. Gerard Ace Pelare, spokesman of Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Brig. Gen. Jerry Bearis, said the attack happened while Degamo was entertaining 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) beneficiaries inside the family compound.
Reports from investigators indicated that six men wearing pixelized uniform and in full battle gear arrived at 9:36 a.m. and started shooting, hitting the governor and several civilians. They fled on board two sports utility vehicles.
The crowd scampered to safety while the governor was rushed to a hospital in Dumaguete City where he was pronounced dead at 11:41 a.m.
Five who were brought to the Silliman University Medical Center, including a municipal councilor and a driver of the Negros Oriental Provincial Engineering Office, were pronounced dead on arrival. Four others later died at the Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital.
Fourteen others are being treated in different hospitals in Dumaguete City.
Col. Reynaldo Lizardojoc, Noppo director, quickly responded with his personnel after the incident, while PRO 7 Director Bearis left for Negros Oriental to personally supervise the investigation.
Bearis ordered road blocks to be established in the province and launched a manhunt.
According to a statement released by Degamo’s wife, Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, she said her husband was a peaceful leader who was willing to go up against the evils of society.
Janice asked the National Government to look for the perpetrators and to bring them to justice for her husband’s untimely death.
Meanwhile, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. condemned the assassination of Governor Degamo.
Marcos described the crime as dastardly and heinous and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
He said the investigation into the murder is developing rapidly.
“We have received much information and now have a clear direction on how to proceed to bring to justice those behind this killing. I am warning all those involved in this killing: You can run but you cannot hide. We will find you. If you surrender now it will be your best option,” he said.
Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. echoed the President’s sentiment.
“Asahan ninyo na hindi kami titigil hanggang hindi nareresolba ang kasong ito gayundin ang iba pang insidente ng pananambang na nangyari sa mga nakalipas na araw (Please expect that we will not stop until this case is resolved as well as the other ambush incidents that have occurred in recent days). We will quickly get to the bottom of this,” he said.
Abalos urged witnesses to cooperate with police to achieve justice for the slain governor.
In Cebu, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia offered her condolences to Degamo’s family and to the families of his security personnel who were also killed.
“I am shocked and deeply saddened by the brutal killing of Gov. Roel Degamo, a good friend, dedicated public servant and fellow governor. I earnestly hope that the perpetrators of this atrocious crime be exposed, apprehended and brought to justice,” Garcia’s statement read.
The League of Governors of the Philippines also issued a statement, deploring Degamo’s murder.
“Violence has no place in a civilized society governed by the rule of law. The impunity reared its ugly head yet again when several men in full battle gear shoot upon Gov. Roel Degamo of Negros Oriental, killing him and wounding several people,” it said.
Pelare, for his part, said they are still trying to determine the motive for the killing.
Degamo’s road to the gubernatorial post wasn’t easy.
Although he was duly elected, his opponent Pryde Henry Teves didn’t relinquish the post of governor until October 11, 2022.
Before leaving Capitol grounds, Teves had told a crowd of supporters, “It is not yet over.”
His victory in the May 9 elections was overturned after the votes of nuisance candidate Ruel Degamo were transferred to Roel Degamo.
Last month, Philippine National Police Chief General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. ordered all PRO directors throughout the country to assess security threats against elected officials in their areas of jurisdiction following a series of shooting incidents involving three local officials.
Saturday’s deadly incident was less than two weeks after an attempt against the life of Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Alonto-Adiong Jr. killed four of his security personnel in broad daylight. (PJB)