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Group behind Negros slays

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DOJ: 7 to 10 people did Degamo, other killings; Abalos rips Teves ‘script’

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Friday tagged a group of seven to 10 people being behind a string of killings in Negros Oriental, the latest of which was the assassination of the provincial governor, Roel Degamo.

“We are looking at a group of people, an organization within Negros Oriental that is possibly involved in this,” Remulla said. “Maybe a group of seven to ten people may be involved here in the murders that we are talking about.”

The government is investigating the killings following the March 4 assassination of Degamo, who was slain in a hail of bullets along with eight other people at his home in Pamplona town.

Authorities are closing in on the mastermind and have strong evidence against the person, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos said Friday.

Asked for his reaction to Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr.’s remark that Degamo’s slaying was part of “a script” to pin him down, Abalos said it was up to the congressman what to think.

“Now, Mr. Teves, we are looking for the mastermind. That’s all I can say. What you think and what you say about you, it’s up to you, as long as we can find the mastermind. The way things are, our evidence is strong,” he said at the sidelines of an event.

Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, the widow of the slain governor, said almost 30 people have been allegedly killed by the camp of the recently-suspended congressman, who is being linked to the assassination after arrested suspects pointed to a “Cong Teves” as the one who ordered the hit.

Teves has denied involvement in the assassination while his lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, said he will not dignify the “atrocious allegations” of Mayor Degamo.

“I refuse to dignify such atrocious allegations. Baka puyat lang si mayor (Maybe the mayor lacks sleep). Why bring that up only now? Why not file cases in court?” Topacio said in an interview.

Regarding the “wish list” Teves supposedly gave as a condition forreturning home and facing the charges against him, Topacio said its contents will be revealed, “at a proper time.”

Also on Friday, police said they seized high-powered firearms and ammunition at the property of former Negros Oriental governor Pryde Henry Teves, brother of the congressman.

Philippine National Police spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group raided Teves’ business compound in Sta. Catalina town.

The search yielded several high-powered firearms, short firearms, and rounds of ammunition, but the inventory is still ongoing, Fajardo said.

Remulla said there was a pattern of impunity in the province.

On Friday, he said it is possible that the suspects behind the killings may “intersect at some point” or “may have a lot in common” with the suspects involved in the Degamo assassination.

At present, 10 suspects in the killing of Degamo are under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Remulla earlier said authorities were also looking into five to six “direct conspirators” in the Degamo killing.

Remulla said he and Mayor Degamo discussed the alleged murders in the province during a meeting at the Department of Justice on Wednesday.

He said their initial information revealed 17 victims.

“But there are more names coming up. But as I said we have to build up cases, we have to get the data, we have to investigate them systematically to get the necessary data,” Remulla said.

“Because many of the preliminary investigations for these cases never materialized, so we need to build them up from scratch,” he later added.

Remulla said they aim to file the cases over the Negros Oriental killings by the end of March, but he said he does not know yet if Teves will be among the respondents.

Asked to confirm rumors that Teves was now in Cambodia, Remulla said he received the same information a few days ago.

“That was the statement given to us a few days ago, maybe 10 days ago.

But we’ll see. We will know very soon where he is,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has been asked to prosecute six more suspects in the March 4 killings of Degamo and eight other persons for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder.

In a complaint, the NBI identified the respondents as Rogelio C Antipolo Jr., also known as Jun Jun; Rommel A. Pattaguan, Winrich B. Isturis, alias Gwen; John Louie L. Gonyon, alias JL; Dahniel P. Lora, alias Buboy; and Eulogio L. Gonyon Jr., alias Master Black.

Remulla earlier said that most of the six suspects are discharged soldiers, with one of them a former military trainee.

With the filing of the complaints against the six suspects, a total of 10 suspects in the killings of Degamo and eight other persons in Pamplona town in Negros Oriental have been charged. Seventeen persons were also injured during the incident.

Earlier charged with multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder before the regional trial court (RTC) were Joric Garido Labrador, Joven Calibojo Javier, Benjie Buladola Rodriguez, and Osmundo Rojas Rivero.

All of those charged are in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation.

Upon the request of Remulla, the Supreme Court has ordered the transfer of all cases related to the Degamo killing to the regional trial court in Manila.

Some of the suspects earlier charged in court had linked Teves to the killing, a charge the congressman has repeatedly denied.

Teves had also been charged with multiple murder before the DOJ in connection with the deaths of three persons in Negros Oriental in 2019.

He is also facing criminal charges for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Teves, who traveled to the United States for “medical reasons” has not returned to the Philippines since March 9, the last day of his authorized travel.

The House of Representatives has unanimously ordered him suspended for 60 days.

It has not yet responded to the governor’s widow’s request that he be expelled.

The PNP said it is now focusing its investigation on the “main players” in Degamo’s assassination.

“We are looking at their possible accomplices, intermediaries, and possibly the alleged brain behind this case,” PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said in an interview on Thursday.

Fajardo also said their investigations have already moved out of Negros Oriental and their investigators are now sifting leads in adjoining provinces based on information provided by the arrested suspects.

Aside from these testimonies, she added that the police force is now in possession of “forensic evidence” that will help fully resolve the case.

She declined to give more details, however.

As this developed, Department of National Defense chief Carlito Galvez Jr. assured the public that the government is making every effort to apprehend the culprits behind the attack.

“When the President called the services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and within 10 days, we were able to see to it that everyone directly involved was taken under our custody,” he said.

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