The rule of law should prevail at all times.
Hence, the Philippine government is on the right track in asking the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to issue an international lookout bulletin against the suspects in the killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo.
In our latest Saturday Media Forum in Quezon City, Department of Justice spokesman Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano told us the government had taken “concrete steps” for the issuance of an international lookout bulletin or Blue Notice for those considered suspects in the Degamo slay that also led to the death of eight others and the wounding of 16 more.
The Interpol Blue Notice is an international request for cooperation or alert allowing police in member-countries to share critical crime-related information issued by the General Secretariat at the request of a member-country.
This notice would allow the county to monitor the movements of the suspects.
“We hope to do that next week just so that we are aware of the movement of those who may very well be involved in the Degamo slay and who may be vital in our investigation,” Clavano said.
The DOJ official bared that cases have been filed against the four gunmen arrested near the scene of the crime, while the government is now currently investigating 10 more individuals.
He added the DOJ probe has revealed the perpetrators of the murder had resorted to what he described as “layering,” – one layer composed of the actual gunmen who carried out the crime, another consisting of the drivers of vehicles and lookouts, still another the handlers or middlemen, who directly took orders from the mastermind.
The Special Investigation Task Group Degamo organized by the Philippine National Police earlier confirmed the DOJ revelation that it was Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo Teves Jr. who was the alleged mastermind in the killing of Degamo.
The lawmaker had even issued a statement condemning the killing of Degamo and denying any involvement in the crime while he was in United States for medical treatment.
House Speaker Martin Romualdez said Rep. Teves had been issued a travel order good for nine days, after which he should return home or face administrative sanctions.
But Teves has asked for a two-month leave, citing security threats to his life and that of his family.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has revealed that Teves is in an Asian country after leaving the U.S.
Prosecuting the mastermind(s) and the actual perpetrators in the brazen assassination of Governor Degamo will send strong message the government is determined to uphold the rule of law in this country.
Biggest PH-US military exercise
With the Philippine military now among the weakest in the Southeast Asian region, it makes eminent sense for the national government to modernize its defense capability to deal with both internal and external threats.
At this point, with the armed insurgency largely contained according to the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, dealing with tensions in the South China Sea that have risen to alarming levels in recent years, the government is correct in expanding security cooperation with other countries in the region to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The continuation of the annual Philippines-US military exercises called Balikatan is therefore a welcome development.
AFP spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar told the Saturday Media Forum that the forthcoming exercise will begin on April 11 and end on April 28 with the participation of a total 17,600 troops: 12,000 from the US and 5,000 from the Philippines.
This year’s Balikatan is the largest joint military exercise in the country. Representatives from Australia and Japan will be coming over to observe the military exercises.
The defining activity of the military exercise, according to Balikatan spokesperson Col. Michael Logico, would be the sinking of an old fishing vessel some 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles) off Zambales, or about 185 km (100 nautical miles) from Panatag Shoal which China seized from the Philippines in 2012.
“We will be sinking a target vessel using a combination of artillery naval gunfire and aviation weapons… We will be firing HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System), our artillery … a combination of Philippine Air Force and US Air Force rockets and bombs, and our frigates,” Logico said.
The US Army will also hold its first Patriot missile air-defense exercise in the country as part of a coastal defense live-fire exercise, Logico added.
Last year, the United States deployed the Patriot, which stands for “Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target,” as part of a mobilization exercise for the Balikatan drills. It was not used for live-fire training then.
The Patriot, said to be one of the world’s most advanced air defense systems, can track and shoot down incoming missiles and aircraft with a minimum flight time of less than nine seconds and can travel up to 70 km to a target. This is already being used against Russian forces in Ukraine.
Asked if the upcoming joint exercise might anger China, Logico said: “We have the absolute, inalienable right to defend our territory. We are here to show that we are combat-ready.”