MANILA – Thirteen more criminal charges would be filed in the coming days against the suspects in the March 4 attack that killed Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and eight others, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said Monday.
This is aside from the 17 charges earlier filed against the suspects in the attack — six for frustrated murder, eight for murder, one for illegal possession of firearms and two for illegal possession of explosives.
“There are a total of 27 victims. Nine died, 15 were hit quite seriously and then three were attempted murders. We are completing more charges for filing — one for murder, nine for frustrated murder, three for attempted murder for a total of 13 more cases are now being studied here for filing,” Abalos told reporters shortly after the meeting of the Metro Manila Regional Peace and Order Council held at Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) office in Pasig City.
He added that the PNP will be the one to file these criminal charges.
Abalos, however, did not elaborate when asked about the mastermind behind the attack.
“It’s difficult to give a timeframe as to when the mastermind would be known but right now, we have strong leads. We are following a trail. There are those who already gave an extrajudicial confession and it made the process easier. What is important is for the mastermind to be immediately caught. We already have names but as for the other participants, there are a lot of names that can still come out,” the DILG chief said in mixed English and Filipino.
Earlier charged were four persons arrested in the subsequent follow-up operations — Benjie Rodriguez, Joric Labrador, Joven Javier, and Osmundo Rivero — along with other John Does.
Abalos said an inter-agency task force was formed to make sure that airtight cases would be filed against the perpetrators.
“This is the whole of government approach here. Those who are behind this would really pay. The President (Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.) is mad. (He said), ‘Give them the full force of the law’,” Abalos added.
Meanwhile, PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said that they are now looking into the whereabouts of five police officers deployed as Degamo’s security personnel at the time of the shooting.
He added that they will be questioning these officers along with Negros Oriental police provincial director Col. Reynaldo Lizardo in Tuesday’s congressional hearing.
“They have to explain their absence as usually, they have to rotate. It does not mean that they will all be reporting for duty,” Azurin told reporters in a separate press conference held at Camp Crame on Monday.
Once it is found out that these police officers did something illegal, they will be immediately relieved from their posts and appropriate criminal charges will be filed against them.
Azurin said he already ordered the five PNP personnel to report to Camp Crame to ensure their attendance to a probe that will be launched by the House of Representatives.
“Initially kasi ang ano diyan is the five personnel na sinasabi na security ni Governor Degamo, ito ay siya mismo ang namili, kilala niya itong mga ito and siguro they have to explain bakit (wala sila during that time). But usually kasi ‘yung 5 na yan may rotation kasi yan. Hindi naman ibig sabihin na everyday ‘yung five na yun ay magre-report for duty but definitely it’s either two, three depende sa arrangement nila (Initially, what is there is the five personnel who are said to be security by Governor Degamo, he himself made handpicked them, he knows them and maybe they have to explain why (they were not there during that time). But usually because those five have a rotation. It doesn’t mean that everyday those five will report for duty but definitely it’s either two, three depending on their arrangement),” said Azurin.
Azurin also added that the PNP is going ahead with its plan of dismantling private armed groups following the series of attacks against politicians.
He also clarified that there is no problem should politicians require additional security following these incidents provided that they inform authorities and undergo the proper process.
Azurin also ordered the PNP-Aviation Security Group (Avsegroup) to monitor the possible arrival of Negros Oriental third district Rep. Arnulfo Teves who was among those tagged in the killing of Degamo.
Teves’s name surfaced amid the investigation into the death of Degamo but the PNP was quick to clarify that it has not yet established the name of the mastermind behind the attack.
Azurin said Teves has yet to communicate with the PNP regarding the matter as well as the recovery of various firearms and ammunition in his residences in the Negros Oriental which were the subjects of search warrant operations last week.
“We are expecting him to return to answer ‘yung mga (those) accusations and the charges against him,” Azurin said.
However, Azurin said they cannot put Teves yet under their custody pending the issuance of an arrest warrant against him.
Teves is currently in the United States for medical reasons. He earlier denied accusations against him.
PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the PNP has committed to secure Teves as soon as he arrives in the country from his foreign trip.
“The PNP is willing to provide security to Congressman Teves if he will request. In fact, the (PNP) Deputy Chief for Operations even volunteered that he will make sure that the necessary security will be provided to Congressman Teves as soon as he arrives here in the Philippines,” said Fajardo.
Fajardo said there is no formal request yet from the PNP in connection with Teves’ security.
She added that the PNP has still no information as to when Teves would arrive in the country.
“We want to assure the families of loved ones of Cong. Teves, the PNP and the other government forces are more than willing to provide security to him, and he does not need to request it,” said Fajardo.
Teves was on a foreign trip when the attack occurred. The House leadership rejected his request for an extension of his travel and urged him to return to the Philippines as soon as possible.
House Speaker Martin Romualdez earlier urged Teves to come back home after his travel authority expired last week and for him to be able to face and answer allegations against him.
Instead, Teves sought an extension of his stay abroad until April 9 but his chief legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio reiterated that he will face the charges filed against him. (PNA)