PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) Chief General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. admitted on Monday, March 6, 2023, that there was “negligence” on the part of the police in relation to the assassination of Negros Oriental Roel Degamo over the weekend.

In a press conference in Camp Crame, Quezon City, Azurin said he has already ordered the command group to look into the possible re-shuffling of personnel, as well as investigation on security lapses of the local police.

“Why this unfortunate incident happened? Nagkulang ba tayo sa [intelligence]? Nagkulang ba tayo sa pag-abiso sa ating VIP (very important persons) considering nga na alam natin ‘yung threat level ni Governor Degamo,” he said.

(Did we lack [intelligence]? Did we fail to notify our VIP (very important persons) considering that we already know the threat level of Governor Degamo?)

“Yes, we admit na meron talagang negligence doon sa nangyari diyan na naging lax talaga ‘yung security. Definitely, the investigation is ongoing not only on the case doon sa nangyari kay governor but definitely on the administrative aspect din ng kapulisan natin…but ang importante sa ngayon na hinaharap natin ay ‘yung maresolba ‘yung case, mahuli pa ‘yung ibang mga suspects,” he added.

(Yes, we admit that there was negligence in what happened there; the security was really lax. Definitely, the investigation is ongoing not only on what happened to the governor but also definitely on the administrative aspect of our police force… but the important thing for us now is to solve the case, catch the other suspects.)

On Saturday morning, March 4, at least 10 heavily armed men in full battle gear barged into Degamo’s compound in Pamplona town and started shooting.

Degamo was then entertaining Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries.

The governor, along with eight other individuals composed of his personal security staff and civilians, were killed in the incident, while 13 others including two personnel of the Philippine Army who serve as a security aide of the governor were “seriously hurt.”

Azurin said the suspects got to Degamo’s residence on board three private vehicles — a Mitsubishi Montero, an old model of Mitsubishi Pajero and an Isuzu pick-up that were equipped with blinkers.

The incident could have been prevented if the police in the area were able to intercept the vehicles on the basis of a law prohibiting the use of blinkers for private-owned cars.

Under Presidential Decree 96, sirens, blinkers, and similar devices may only be attached to motor vehicles designated for official use by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation, Police Departments, Fire Departments, hospital ambulances, and the Land Transportation Commission.

Last week, following the several violent gun attacks against local chief executives, Azurin has ordered police field units to conduct threat assessment on the elected officials, in particular, in their jurisdiction.

He said the result of the assessment of the local police on Degamo which could also have prevented the incident will be part of their investigation.

“Masasabi siguro natin that would be part of the investigation that will be conducted by the PNP to determine the culpability of the security of the late Governor,” said Azurin.

“Dapat sana sila nag advise kay governor na Sir we cannot sacrifice your security kaya nga dapat nandun sila labas para hinihimay-himay sino ‘yung mga pumapasok,” he added.

In 2020, Degamo bared a plot to kill him and his wife, which was prevented following the arrest of three suspects in Malay, Aklan.

A police report identified the suspects as Marvin Halaman Miranda, 31, an Army reservist and resident of Villareal, Bayawan City, Negros Oriental; Mario Morales Puyal, 62, a retired Army soldier and resident of Sitio Usawang, Barangay Ususan in Taguig City; and Adolfo Agbayani Obiacoro, 34, a tricycle driver of Imus, Cavite, and who claimed to be temporarily residing in Bayawan City.

Confiscated from the suspects were a number of assorted short and long firearms, several rounds of ammunition, and other personal items and documents.

Degamo then cited the possible reason for the attempt on his life and that of his wife, is the decision of the Supreme Court that he could still run as governor in the 2022 elections.

Four suspects in Degamo’s killing have already been arrested and they were identified as Benjie Rodriguez, Joven Calibjo Javier, Joric Labrador and Osmundo Rivero, all former members of the Philippine Army who were dismissed from the service.

Another suspect died after allegedly fighting it out with the police during the conduct of a hot pursuit operation while at least five more were still subject of manhunt operations.

The vehicles and firearms they used in committing the crime are now under police custody.

Charges for the violation of RA 10591 (firearms law) and RA 9516 (illegal possession of explosives) have been filed against the arrested suspects while murder charges are set to be filed against them within the day.

Azurin said they already lead on the masterminds of the killing but he refused to divulge further information.

He said they are also not discounting politics as the motive of the killing. (SunStar Philippines)