Suspect says ‘Cong Teves’ ordered hit on Degamo, conspiracy eyed
Three or four people may have conspired to have Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo assassinated, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Thursday.
When asked previously to confirm whether Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo “Arni” Teves Jr. is the subject of an official investigation, Remulla said: “Well, we’re investigating everybody who may have something to do with what has been happening in Negros Oriental. Bar none. We are not exempting anybody.”
Television reports said two of the suspects named a certain “Congressman Teves” as the mastermind in the killing of Degamo.
In an ABS-CBN TV Patrol report last night, one of the suspects in police custody, Joric Labrador, said in an ambush interview: “Si Congressman Teves pagkaalam ko (It was Congressman Teves, as far as I know).”
The suspect added that he learned of his boss’ identity—although not his first name—by asking his colleagues who owned the safehouse and the land where they were stationed.
Labrador also denied facing the alleged boss “Teves” personally in the ABS-CBN report.
In the GMA News report, Labrador added, “Ang alam kong nag-recruit sa amin ay si Marvin,” and when asked who gave the orders to Marvin, he said, “Si cong daw sir… Teves sir.”
The GMA report added that suspects Labrador and Benjie Rodriguez were initially offered to work as VIP security, but were later assigned to join the group tasked to kill Degamo. Both suspects said they were told the governor is a drug lord.
Rodriguez claimed he was also a victim, saying when he reported for duty three days before the massacre, he said “nagbago trato sa amin” (their treatment of us changed).
“That is a conspiracy, but there is a mastermind. There may be three or four people who made the plan and hired others,” Remulla said in a chance interview.
“That is what we are studying right now. And that will be included in the statements of the people,” he added.
The Justice Secretary said the conspirators may not necessarily be “big names.”
“We are investigating anybody with a possible culpability. We would not exempt anybody,” he said.
Degamo and five others were shot dead in broad daylight while he was distributing aid to his constituents at his residence in Pamplona, Negros Oriental on March 4. Several others were critically wounded in the attack, and the following day the death toll had climbed to nine.
But Remulla said he had no information about the suspects’ revelations on TV.
“I don’t know about that yet. I haven’t been informed. I need to read the statements because that is what we will use in filing the charges,” he said.
Remulla also assured the public that the government would offer protection to witness of the killing as well as Degamo’s family.
In a separate interview with radio dzRH on Thursday, Remulla said initial investigations suggested that the 56-year-old Degamo survived the initial volley from the gunmen inside his residential compound.
Injured and on the ground, Degamo sought help by radio at a frequency being monitored by the attackers’ group, which then went back to shoot him again. He died in hospital.
A document from the Office of House Secretary General Reginald Velasco showed that Teves was given permission to go to the US for a personal trip from Feb. 28 to March 9.
But the document did not state the reason for Teves’ personal trip.
The congressman said in a video message released by his office earlier this week said he went abroad for stem cell treatment.
“Congressman Teves must return today from the US since he was not given an extension by the House of Representatives,” Remulla said.
He said they have yet to see if Teves “will really face the allegations that he was involved in the gruesome incidents in Negros.”
Teves has denied involvement in the assassination.
In a statement, Ferdinand Topacio, Teves’ lead counsel, called on the public to “observe sobriety” in their pronouncements regarding the allegations against the lawmaker.
“The killing has already been denounced strongly by Representative Teves, who has denied involvement therein. It will not serve the ends of justice [in any way] by publicly obfuscating the issues prematurely before a thorough investigation in accordance with procedures provided for by law,” Topacio said.
“We shall face any and all accusations consistent with the courses outlined in the legal system, confident that, in the end, our client will be exonerated,” he added.
Also on Thursday, Vice President Sara Duterte called on law enforcement authorities to put an end to the series of deadly attacks against elected local government officials.
“Let me take this opportunity to raise the urgent need for our law enforcement authorities to solve, to address, to put an end to the alarming string of violence perpetrated against elected officials,” she said during the second day of the 2023 National Election Summit.
In the last four weeks, at least four other local officials had been injured or killed in attacks across the country.
“This spate of violence leaves not only a trail of death but alsoestablishes a chilling climate of fear among the people. Worse, given the experiences of people elected to office, these acts of violence could potentially spawn more bloodbaths if perpetrators and those who masterminded them are not brought to justice,” Duterte said.
Remulla said authorities saw a “pattern of impunity” in Negros Oriental following the March 4 killing of Degamo in his residence.
“What comes out is a pattern. It’s a pattern of impunity that we did not sense before. It is something that is so new to us,” Remulla said, after visiting Degamo’s wake on Wednesday night along with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr.
“It’s very hard to imagine this happening before. But now that this happened, the stories are beginning to make sense that there was a pattern of impunity within the area,” he added.
Senator Ronald dela Rosa, meanwhile, said some of his colleagues in the Senate who did not carry firearms before have bought guns for their own protection.
A former chief of the PNP, Dela Rosa advised his fellow senators to practice shooting so they know how to use their guns when the need arises.
As chairperson of the Senate committee on public order and illegaldrugs, Dela Rosa was tasked to lead the Senate probe into the spate of political killings.
Dela Rosa said he might set a hearing next week.
The Philippine National Police confirmed on Thursday the personnel changes in Sta. Catalina Police in Negros Oriental amid the ongoing investigation into the Degamo killing.
These included 56 officers from Sta. Catalina and 76 from the Bayawan City police station.
PNP spokesperson Police Col. Jean Fajardro said that an investigation into the failure to provide adequate security coverage for Degamo is also underway.
The death of Degamo and eight others garnered national attention after footage of the attack caught on CCTV showed armed men entering the residence of the governor and gunning down the victims.