Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and five others were killed when armed men fired shots while the official was distributing aid at his residence in Pamplona, Negros Oriental, on Saturday.
Degamo’s family confirmed that he passed away at 11:41 a.m., according to a report by Decemay Padilla of Super Radyo Cebu on Super Radyo dzBB.
Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, wife of the governor, and his family sought help from the national government to attain justice for his death.
Initial investigation revealed that six suspects wearing pixelized uniforms and carrying long firearms shot Degamo, who was entertaining beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) program at his residence in Barangay San Isidro.
The incident occurred around 9:50 a.m., the Philippine National Police said.
Following the attack, the PNP said three getaway vehicles, a Mitsubishi Pajero with plate number NQZ 735, an Isuzu pickup with plate number GRY 162, and a Mitsubishi Montero with plate number YAP 163, were found abandoned in Barangay Kansumalig, Bayawan City, Negros Oriental.
Citing some witnesses, the PNP said around 10 suspects were seen fleeing the scene, going towards the mountainous area of Barangay Kansumalig.
Three of the suspects were later arrested in Bayawan City. Two of them, according to the PNP, were former soldiers.
A regional special investigation task group was created to conduct a probe into the incident.
PNP chief Police General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. instructed Police Lieutenant General Patrick Villacorte of the Area Police Command-Visayas to make personnel as well as air assets available for the hot pursuit operations.
The National Operational Support Units were also fielded at the crime scene to assist in the investigation.
"The CPNP (chief of PNP) assures the public that the PNP is on top of the situation and that it will not leave any place in Region 7 unturned until all the perpetrators will be in the hands of the authorities and be made to answer in the crimes they have committed," the PNP said.
Degamo served as Governor of Negros Oriental from January 5, 2011, but was initially unseated by a rival in the May 2022 elections.
However, his rival's proclamation as provincial governor was annulled, and Degamo's victory was upheld by the Supreme Court after the votes obtained by a nuisance candidate were credited in favor of Roel Degamo.
Degamo was Negros Oriental Governor from 2011 to 2023, Negros Oriental Vice governor from 2010 to 2011, and Sianton Municipal Councilor from 1998 to 2007.
Marcos warns perpetrators
In a statement, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. denounced the killing and said the investigation is “developing rapidly."
"I condemn in the strongest possible terms the assassination of a sitting Governor, Governor Roel Degamo of Negros Oriental," Marcos said in a Facebook post which also showed his photos with the slain official.
"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," he added.
He also issued a stern warning to the perpetrators of the crime.
"I am warning all those involved in this killing: you can run but you cannot hide. We will find you. If you surrender now it will be your best option," Marcos said.
“Asahan ninyo na hindi kami titigil hanggang hindi nareresolba ang kasong ito gayundin ang iba pang insidente ng pananambang na nangyari sa mga nakalipas na araw. We will quickly get to the bottom of this,” Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos added.
(Expect that we will not stop until this case is resolved, as well as other ambush incidents that have occurred in the past few days. We will quickly get to the bottom of this.)
He also appealed to the witnesses of the incident to cooperate with the PNP to bring justice for the Negros Oriental governor.
Vice President Sara Duterte and several lawmakers also condemned the attack.
Degamo's assassination came after a series of attacks that left some local officials either dead or injured.
On February 17, gunmen shot at a convoy of Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr. in Bukidnon. Adiong survived, but four of his companions were killed.
Two days later, Aparri, Cagayan Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda, and five others were killed in an ambush in Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya.
On February 22, Datu Montawal, Maguindanao del Sur Mayor Ohto Caumbo Montawal, was hurt after two assailants shot him while inside his vehicle in Pasay City.
In response, the PNP said it was looking into a possible pattern in the recent armed attacks against elected government officials. —Jamil Santos, Richa Noriega, and Sherylin Untalan/KG/VBL, GMA Integrated News