AFP taps '2 brigades, 6 battalions' in serving warrants to Degamo slay suspects

James Relativo - The Philippine Star
AFP taps '2 brigades, 6 battalions' in serving warrants to Degamo slay suspects
Photo shows the firearm of an officer guarding the wake of Degamo in Dumaguete City.

MANILA, Philippines —  Orders have already been sent out to the military to form a task force to aid the Philippine National Police in serving warrants against various suspects to the assassination of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo, according to the Department of National Defense.

The governor died from gunshots last Saturday while tending to beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in his residence in the town of Pamplona, an ambush carried out after a  series of fatal violence against government officials early into 2023.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines has been tasked to organize two brigades and six battalions to work with the PNP in carrying out the president's order and serve warrants for the crimes relating to the death of our beloved Gov. Degamo," said Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez during the wake of Degamo today.

"The instruction of the president to me is very clear. One, to get all the 10 suspects. Two, to sever all the tentacles of violence here in Negros. And as I have said, there is always time for reckoning. And this day is a day of reckoning."

A "Congressman Teves" was earlier implicated by two alleged suspects as the mastermind behind the killing. While not explicitly stated, former Gov. Pryde Henry Teves was known to be a political rival of Degamo. He has a brother who is currently holding a position in legislature: Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr.

Arnolfo's houses were raided last Friday by the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group by virtue of a search warrant, wherein various illgal firearms and explosives were allegedly seized.

The Defense official says that they are now endeavoring the safety of Degamo's family alongside witnesses to the bloody crime.

"The president is very firm in his guidance to solve the case as soon as possible and bring these lawless elements to justice," continued Galvez.

Additional forces 'to ensure peace'

AFP chief of staff Gen. Andres Centino alayed the fears of the public who are warry of possible militarization with respect to the increase of troops in their region. He says that they're only there to keep people safe.

"The deployment of our forces is to assudae the people of Negros that the government is here, it's working and making sure that peace and order will prevail in this part of the country," he explained.

It could be noted that some of the suspects tagged in the case were former military officials who went AWOL (absent without official leave), including:

  • Joven Javier
  • Joric Labrador
  • Benjie Rodriguez

AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar earlier said that the military is already intensifying the monitoring of government troops who end up engaging in crimes.

"It's really unfortunate, but the [AFP] has already explained. Some of the suspects called are mga dating sundalo who were actually dishonorably discharged years ago," Centino added.

"We have a program to make sure that our current soldiers are trained... Our soldiers right now will have this real appreciation of the value of life."

The AFP official claims that no special treatment would be extended to their former brothers in arms and that "[t]he full course of the law will be applied to them just like any other criminal."

Teves asked to come home

House Speaker Martin Romualdez last Friday called on Rep. Teves to return to the Philippines since his travel clearance to America have already expired last Thursday.

According to Romualdez, Teves should use this opportunity to answer allegations regarding the death of the local official.

"It’s better for Cong. Arnie to come home so that he can face allegations against his family related to the death of Gov. Roel Degamo," he said.

It's not yet clear if repurcussions would be lodged regarding the solon's extended stay overseas.

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