By Glazyl Y. Masculino
BACOLOD City – Negros Oriental third district rep. Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. brushed aside accusations linking him to the assassination of provincial governor Roel Degamo and eight others, including two barangay officials on March 4.
Teves issued a statement on the incident in his hometown through a 16-minute Facebook live on Monday, March 6.
“Ito ang matagal ko nang kinakatakot na mangyari. Bakit? Expected ko na…na ako na naman ang pagbibintangan,” Teves said.
Teves said that he has many sources of intelligence information. “Ngayon napag-alaman ko na merong ibang mga tao diyan na gusto akong idiin. Ang iba siguro gusto lang umepal… gusto magpasikat para sa sarili nilang kapakanan. Wala po akong pinapatamaan, pero alam niyo kung sino kayo,” he added.
Teves appealed to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., that he needs protection for his life and peace in Negros Oriental.
“Ang mga ganitong pangyayari na patayan ay hindi ko gusto at hindi kanais-nais,” he said.
“Kung may balak man ako o may kakayahan na gawin ito, di sana ginawa ko na ito bago mag eleksyon. Anong motibo kung ngayon gagawin? Hindi din magiging benepisyaryo ako o ang kapatid ko, dahil kung mawala ang gobernardor, ang uupo naman ay ang vice-governor,” Teves said.
Teves said he is not fighting against the government.
“Sino ba naman si Arnie para lumaban sa gobyerno? Ako ay ordinaryong tao lamang,” he added.
“Nakakatakot ang ganitong pangyayari. Hindi ito kanais-nais at hindi maganda para sa progreso ng aking distrito at ng aming probinsya,” Teves said.
He expressed his condolences to the families of the victims in the Saturday shooting, and also shared the pain of losing a loved one, citing the death of his cousin who was found with a gunshot wound in Valencia town last month.
Arnolfo is the brother of Pryde Henry Teves who voluntarily stepped down from office, paving a way for a peaceful transfer of leadership to Degamo.
This, after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) declared Degamo as the duly elected governor. The Comelec credited to him the more than 49,000 votes garnered by a nuisance candidate, who used the name “Ruel Degamo” on the ballot during the May 2022 elections. The additional votes gave Degamo a winning margin of 29,000 votes against the 301,319 votes of Pryde Henry.
Mayor Janice Degamo in an earlier media interview said that she believed that the gun attack was politically motivated. But the police refused to discuss the possible motive, as all angles are being closely probed and explored.
Meanwhile, all ports in Negros Oriental were sealed as pursuit operations continue against six to eight remaining suspects responsible behind the shooting incident that also wounded 17 individuals, including a medical doctor, and two soldiers.
In a media interview on Monday, Police Lieutenant Colonel Gerard Ace Pelare, spokesperson of the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) of Police Regional Office (PRO) – Central Visayas, said that policemen and military personnel were scattered strategically to apprehend the remaining suspects, whom they believed have not left the province because of the maximum security being implemented.
Pelare said the number of perpetrators was based on the account of witnesses, and the closed circuit television (CCTV) camera footage at Degamo’s residence in Pamplona town where the gun attack happened on Saturday morning.
“We have substantial information, but we could not share it right now as it may hamper the investigation. Operatives are still on the ground,” he added.
Pelare said that another suspect was arrested on Sunday, but the identity has yet to be revealed. As of press time, a total of four suspects were arrested, including two former Army soldiers, while another was killed in a shootout in Bayawan City on March 4.
Seven long firearms used in the shooting incident were recovered, according to Pelare.
Pelare said they are looking at the perpetrators as “hired gunmen,” considering the manner of their actions. “These are hardened criminals, well-prepared to do this crime,” he added.
Pelare said that these perpetrators were believed gathered to conduct the assassination as the arrested suspects were not natives of the province. “They know that there’s security protecting the governor, but their goal was to really overcome the governor’s security,” he added.
Pelare said that the perpetrators were trained, as they were wearing combat uniforms for that purpose.
Based on the CCTV footage circulated on social media, the armed men barged into the governor’s compound and fired shots.
Earlier, the governor’s wife said that the guard prohibited the armed men to enter the vicinity, pending the verification of their identities. But, everything happened so fast, she added.
With this incident, Pelare said that police and military presence were maximized in the province, and they have also provided heightened security to the families of the victims.
Pelare said that the governor had threats based on the records, thus his security from the police and military was previously heightened.
Meanwhile, the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) here has ordered all police stations in the southern part of the province to establish checkpoints along the main roads and highways, particularly in Barangay Culipapa in Hinoba-an town.
Police Captain Judesses Catalogo, public information officer of Nocppo, said the Provincial Mobile Force Company also joined the manhunt operations by serving as a blocking force while patrolling in far-flung areas bordering Negros Oriental are being conducted to prevent the suspects from escaping.
Catalogo also said that all police chiefs were alerted to contact their respective local chief executives and conduct threat assessments.
Catalogo said that local officials currently do not see any serious threats to their security, although some have acknowledged receiving threats in the past.
“We remind our local chief executives not to be complacent,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the flag at the Provincial Capitol here was flown at half-mast to mourn Degamo’s death.
Atty. Richard Enojo, interim provincial administrator in Negros Oiental, said that the operations at the Provincial Capitol will go as is.
“Everything has to proceed as the way it was before,” he added.
Enojo said the schedule for the public viewing of Degamo’s remains at the Capitol has yet to be finalized.
The remains of the governor lie in state at their house in Dumaguete City where public viewing started yesterday.