By Glazyl Y. Masculino
BACOLOD City – The entire police force in Bayawan City, Negros Oriental was relieved following the assassination of Gov. Roel Ragay Degamo.
This was revealed by Police Lieutenant Colonel Gerard Ace Pelare, spokesperson of the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) of Police Regional Office (PRO) – Central Visayas, in a press briefing yesterday.
“This is an operational and tactical decision of the command to make sure that the remaining suspects will be arrested,” Pelare said, adding that a team had already been sent to Bayawan City to replace the previous force.
Based on the latest report from PRO-Central Visayas, four suspects have been arrested in relation to the assassination of Degamo and eight others, including two barangay officials, over the weekend.
On Saturday, March 4, the slain governor was talking to his constituents, who were asking for assistance from the provincial government, when about 10 to 12 armed men barged into their residence in Pamplona town and fired shots.
The incident also wounded 17 people, including two soldiers and a medical doctor.
Police and military troopers arrested three suspects in Bayawan City hours after the shooting happened, while another was killed in a shootout with the authorities in the said city on Saturday night. Another suspect was arrested the following day, March 5.
Criminal complaints of multiple murder, frustrated murder, illegal possession of explosives, and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition were filed against the four arrested suspects, according to a report from PRO-Central Visayas.
Three of the five suspects were former military personnel who were discharged from the service, according to the police.
Pelare said that the four arrested suspects were transferred to Camp Crame as ordered by the national government. Two of them will be placed under the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Justice (DOJ), he added.
Pelare said the suspects shared substantial information in relation to the crime committed. But he could not share specific details, as the troops are still on the ground pursuing the remaining suspects.
“We have maximum police presence in Bayawan City and neighboring towns,” Pelare said, adding that all of Negros Island is “sealed” due to the ongoing manhunt operation.
He said that they have found matches from the bullets and assault rifles used during the ballistic examination, but he did not elaborate further.
Prints were also taken from the recovered getaway vehicles and are now in the process of DNA testing, he added.
A Mitsubishi Pajero, a green Isuzu pick-up truck, and a black Mitsubishi Montero were found abandoned in Barangay Cansumalig, Bayawan City several hours after the gun attack happened.
Pelare said that they have identified and are currently investigating the owners of these getaway vehicles following their coordination with the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
“If they have something to do or if the vehicles were stolen…we have already coordinated with the owners,” he said, adding that the owners are cooperating with the investigation.
Pelare stressed that the SITG is on top of the situation, as they have a good lead in the case.
Meanwhile, Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson and some senators visited the wake of Degamo at their house in Dumaguete City yesterday.
Based on the advisory of the provincial government, the remains of Degamo will lie in state at the Provincial Capitol from March 8 to 12.
He will be transferred to his hometown in Bonawon, Siaton on March 13 and will be buried beside his parents and sister. But, the schedule of the burial has yet to be announced.