PBBM condemns Degamo killing

IN a statement on Saturday, President Marcos condemned the assassination of Degamo, and vowed his government “will not rest until we have brought the perpetrators of this dastardly and heinous crime to justice.”

“The investigation into this murder is developing rapidly. We have received much information and now have a clear direction on how to proceed to bring to justice those behind this killing,” the President said.

He warned those involved in the killing: “You can run but you cannot hide. We will find you. If you surrender now it will be your best option.”

In a statement on Saturday afternoon, DoJ spokesman Mico Clavano said the bounty was posted by Justice Secretary Crispin “Boying” Remulla.

“The violent and senseless manner by which the perpetrators carried out their plan cannot and will not be tolerated. Not only did they kill their target but they killed innocent civilians along the way. There is absolutely no room for such evil doings in this country,” Clavano said.

He said Remulla has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the incident.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. also condemned the “senseless assassination” of Degamo. “The forces of the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office as well as the police in neighboring provinces have been deployed to explore every corner of the area to immediately arrest the criminals,” Abalos said in a statement.

Degamo was slain just weeks after the Supreme Court en banc dismissed the petitions of his political rival, former Bayawan City mayor Pryde Henry Teves, whose victory in the gubernatorial race in Negros Oriental in the 2022 elections was nullified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in favor of Degamo.

The League of Provinces of the Philippines on Saturday deplored the killing of Degamo. It also offered its “heartfelt condolences” to Degamo’s family.

Members of the House of Representatives denounced the killing of Degamo.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said the incident was “a direct challenge to the authorities.”

“I expect the National Police to act with dispatch in arresting those responsible for this dastardly act. Stop lawlessness in the land and restore peace and order in our communities. That is your [PNP’s] sworn duty,” he said.

Bohol Third District Rep. Kristine Alexie Besas-Tutor “condoled with Negrenses who lost a committed public servant to assassins who perpetuate the culture of violence and the proliferation of private armies and illegal firearms on Negros Island, which has had a tragic history of assassinations.”

Negros Occidental Third District Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez supported the appeal to bring the killers of Degamo to justice.

Iloilo City Rep. Julienne Baronda urged the PNP to “leave no stone unturned in making the perpetrators face the full force of the law.”

Negros Occidetal Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said, “We need to put a stop to violent crimes such as [the Degamo killing], and I earnestly hope that justice will prevail. Our people and government officials deserve to live in peace and should be able to live free from fear.”

Vice President Sara Duterte said Degamo’s death is “a tragedy to the province of Negros Oriental.”

Former Bohol governor Arthur Yap extended his “heartfelt sympathies” to Degamo’s family.

“His dedication to the poor and weak in society was inspiring,” Yap said.

Former Palace spokesman Harry Roque said, “This kind of violence has to stop. It has no place in a democracy. Jail his killers soonest!”

Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito Ejercito said the killing of Degamo and the ambush of Adiong were “barbaric acts.”

Degamo was born in Siaton town, Negros Oriental. He earned his college degree from Silliman University in 1989, where he majored in mechanical engineering. He took the license examinations in the same year and passed.

He began his political career as councilor in Siaton, serving three consecutive terms from 1998 to 2007.

He served as president of the Provincial Councilors League of Negros Oriental from 2004 to 2007, giving him a seat in the provincial board. He was also elected as Region 7 chairman, which entitled him to a seat in the National Board of the Philippine Councilors’ League.

In 2010 he ran for a seat on the provincial board, and won with the highest number of votes.

Degamo took over as vice governor after vice governor-elect Agustin Perdices took over the position left by the elected governor, Emilio Macias 2nd, who died before taking his oath of office for another term.

The death of Perdices once again forced Degamo to move up in the political hierarchy of the province.

Prior to assuming the governorship, Degamo was elected for three consecutive terms: in 2013 under PDP–Laban, in 2016 under the National Unity Party, and in 2019 under the Nacionalista Party.

Between 2011 and 2022, Degamo had eluded three dismissal orders from the Office of the Ombudsman.

In 2016, the Ombudsman ordered him dismissed for allegedly misusing the P480-million calamity fund for Typhoon “Sendong” victims in 2011. He was able to secure a 60-day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals blocking the suspension In 2017, he was suspended for three months for alleged usurpation of calamity funds from the 6.9 magnitude earthquake in 2012. Then vice governor Mark Macias took over as acting governor.

During the same year, while Degamo was serving his suspension, the Office of the Ombudsman issued another dismissal order against him after he was found guilty of grave misconduct over alleged misuse of P10 million worth of intelligence funds in 2013.

Degamo staved off the dismissal order through another TRO from the Court of Appeals on Jan. 11, 2018. The Supreme Court dissolved the TRO on Nov. 13, 2019.

But it turned out that the Court of Appeals had already cleared Degamo as early as September 2019, once again preventing his dismissal.

The killing of Degamo followed the wounding of another governor, Lanao del Sur’s Mamintal Adiong, in an ambush that killed his driver and three police escorts, on February 17.

In another ambush in Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya, two days later, the vice mayor of Aparri, Cagayan, Rommel Alameda, and his companions were killed.

On February 22, Datu Montawal, Maguindanao del Sur Mayor Ohto Caumbo Montawal was wounded after two gunmen fired at his vehicle in Pasay City.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is determining if there is a pattern to the attacks against local politicians.