March 28, 2023 Alfred P. Dalizon 214 views

Alfred DalizonI’M talking about the ongoing partnership between DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos and Justice chief Boying Remulla to bring justice to Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and eight other victims of a brazen gun attack inside the politician’s compound in Pamplona municipality last March 4.

The two seasoned lawyers-turned top DILG and DOJ honchos are fitted against the suspects who planned, orchestrated and carried out the killings which rocked the entire country amid a video of the actual shooting incident which showed the gunmen firing at the victims at will, without any provocation.

I’m very sure that if the senatorial elections would be held today, Abalos and Remulla would be runaway winners if they would be fielded by the government in its senatorial list. However, the 2025 senatorial race is still more than two years away and the two officials right now are busy leading their men in finding out who ordered the killings and sending them to jail for life.

If I remember it right, this is the 2nd time in the country’s history that ‘a whole-of-government, a whole-of-nation approach’ has been employed to get the masterminds and killers in a particular heinous crime.

The approach which involves the DILG-PNP, the Department of National Defense-Armed Forces, the DOJ-National Bureau of Investigation and all other concerned law enforcement, investigative and intelligence agencies was first used to solve the infamous Maguindanao Massacre on November 23, 2009 which left 59 people, 32 of them media workers dead.

The then Macapagal-Arroyo administration unleashed its full might against the suspects in the so-called Ampatuan Massacre, declared martial rule in Maguindanao to arrest the presence of private armed groups and loose weapons and went after the then very powerful and influential Ampatuan clan.

The police-military operations in the province led in dozens of arrest and confiscation of high-powered weapons and ammunition, many of them found to be from the AFP armory sold or ‘issued’ to the Ampatuans by some rogue military personnel.

More than a decade after the victims were machine-gunned to death and their bodies and vehicles were buried in three shallow graves on a hilltop by the assassins who used a government backhoe to dig the burial sites, the men who planned the massacre led by Datu Unsay Mayor, Datu Andal Ampatuan were found guilty of multiple murder by a Manila court and were given the life term.

I still remember the busy days we were reporting the day-to-day government operations in Maguindanao which led in the arrest of around 200 suspects and triggered the end to the Ampatuan grip on politics in Maguindanao.

Today, the same ‘whole-of-government approach’ is being used to determine who really ordered the killing of Gov. Degamo and eight others, an incident which President Bongbong Marcos Jr. described as ‘politically-motivated.’

The March 4 incident again rocked the country’s political establishment and triggered a massive operation to get the killers and their ‘brains.’

As a result, the Teves brothers-suspended Negros Oriental (3rd District) Representative Arnolfo ‘Arnie’ Teves and his brother, former Gov. Pryde Henry have been stripped of their licensed firearms and bodyguards.

I really believe that the death of Degamo would spur political and judicial reforms to end the impunity that has plagued the province for far too long. Three weeks after the governor and eight others were shot dead by gunmen armed with automatic rifles, the DILG and the DOJ is in the verge of resolving the case, pointing to a well-planned conspiracy orchestrated by Degamo’s rival.

During the Duterte presidency, the PNP, the AFP, the NBI and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency were also tasked to go after drug personalities and their protectors in the government. In short, the Duterte government targeted suspected drug personalities, including some politicians with known drug links.

However, it did not launch a ‘major offensive’ against one particular family and its patriarch accused of ordering the killing of a political rival.

This time, an angry PBBM is hell-bent on bringing justice to Degamo and the eight other innocent shooting victims.

A number of arrests and surrenders have been recorded, dozens of illegal weapons, IEDs, grenades and tens of thousands of various live ammunition have been seized, and criminal charges have been filed before the DOJ as a result of the present administration’s effort to bring to the nine victims and their families the justice they really deserve.

On Monday, Sec. Abalos did not mince any words in calling the brains behind the Negros Oriental massacre as a ‘Demonyo’ (Devil) and asked him to yield now. “Ang pangalan ng mastermind eh Demonyo. Maski sa birth certificate, alam ko ang middle initial nito eh Demonyo,” the DILG chief although he did not really name the suspected mastermind citing legal procedures.

Sec. Abalos expressed confidence that the Special Investigation Task Group Degamo composed of officers from the PNP, the AFP, NBI and the DOJ are already in the ‘very end of unmasking the brains.’ “Alam kong alam mo kung sino ka na kaya sumuko ka na. Alam mo kung sino ka at sumuko ka na. Sa iba pa namang hindi sumusuko, nais kong sabihin sa inyo na iba ang utak ng taong it. He’s very devious, he’s very evil, lahat ng kasamaan nasa kanya,” the DILG chief said.

As Speaker Martin Romualdez continued his appeal to Rep. Teves to return to the country and face the charges against him, Sec. Remulla said they are already looking into the connection of the suspended lawmaker to the March 4 incident. Incidentally, Speaker Romualdez and Secretaries Abalos and Remulla are all seasoned lawyers.

The DILG chief said that as of present, everybody has an opinion of who is the mastermind behind the killing of Degamo and eight others.

“But right now, this is what I assure him, malakas na ang aming ebidensiya, ang importanteng testimonies, forensic evidence laban say o kaya wag mo nang parusahan ang sarili mo. Sumuko ka na,” he said.

The DILG chief has commended PNP chief, General Jun Azurin and his men specifically those from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group headed by Brigadier Gen. Bong Caramat Jr. and the Armed Forces led by Gen. Andy Centino for a job well done in investigating the multiple murder case.

Credit should also be given to the new Police Regional Office 7 and Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office leaderships headed respectively by Brig. Gen. Anthony Aberin and Colonel Alex Recinto for their continuing effort to recover more weapons of the Teveses.

On Sunday, thousands of ammunition, improvised explosive devices and other bomb paraphernalia were unearthed inside a compound in Bayawan City in Negros Oriental owned by Pryde Henry by the local police and a PNP-CIDG team headed by Colonel Hansel Marantan. This time, police used a backhoe and other heavy equipment to successfully dig for weapons and explosives, not bodies just like what they did to find the bodies of the Ampatuan Massacre victims in 2009.

As of press time, six more individuals tagged in the multiple murder case will be facing nine counts of murder, 13 counts of frustrated murder and three counts of attempted murder before the court. Gen. Azurin said that the weapons and explosives recovered during the series of raids in Negros Oriental will also be subjected to forensic and ballistics examination to determine if they could have been used in previous deadly incidents in the province.

As of Tuesday, Gen. Azurin said that Pryde Teves’s gun papers are now being reviewed by the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office headed by Colonel Kenneth Lucas. The PNP-FEO will be the one to recommend the revocation of the License to Own and Possess Firearms of Pryde and his co-accused too.

It’s really bad news for the Teveses who used to roam the country with powerful guns and bodyguards, just remember a member of the family who was caught on video slapping and kicking a security guard inside a Parañaque City subdivision whose only fault is doing his duty a couple of years ago. Now they are facing the prospect of having to leave their homes without a single security personnel and a gun and relying only on their bare fists and wits to defend themselves. This is true because no soldier or policeman–active or retired-in his right mind would allow himself to be under the employ of the Teveses without risking arrest.