DOJ: 4 massacre suspects ready to talk, Bayawan cops relieved

Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson with Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo at the wake of Gov. Roel Degramo on Tuesday, March 7.*

Four suspects in the massacre of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and eight others intend to cooperate with authorities, which hopefully will lead to the arrest of the mastermind, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told DIGICAST NEGROS Tuesday, March 7.

The four suspects in the Pamplona, Negros Oriental, massacre on Saturday were brought to Metro Manila early Tuesday morning.

On arrival in Manila they were escorted by the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police from the airport to Camp Crame, where they met with agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and officers of the Witness Protection Program (WPP).

On instructions of Remulla and Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr., the two respondents who previously expressed their intention to cooperate were immediately turned over to the the NBI for protective custody and further investigation.

However, early Tuesday afternoon, the two other suspects expressed their intention to also cooperate.

“The statements made by the respondents are in the verification process…The specific motive of the murder has yet to be confirmed as the DILG and DOJ will exert every effort to see all the factors at play in this incident,” a DOJ statement said.

Three counts of murder and frustrated murder have been filed in the Regional Trial Court in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, against Joric Garido Labrador, Joven Calibjo Javier, Banjie Buladola Rodriguez, Osmundo Rojas Rivero and twelve other John Does, the DOJ said.

Separate sets of information for three counts for violation of laws on the illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives against three of the respondents were also filed in the Regional Trial Court of Bayawan City, it added.

The DOJ is also in coordination with the PNP for any future cases that may be filed in relation to the incident. This includes inquests from any arrests that may arise from continuing hot pursuit operations as well as any complaints for preliminary investigation.

The DOJ main office intends to take cognizance of all the cases.

The DOJ and DILG are reaffirming their commitment to pursue the perpetrators behind this brazen act, the statement said.

“We are likewise calling for more relevant information on the killers and mastermind behind the deaths of Governor Roel Degamo and the eight others. Rest assured, we will not rest until this case is solved”, the statement added.

Police Lt. Col. Gerard Ace Pelare, Special Investigation Task Group spokesperson, at a press conference on Tuesday said the suspects had shared substantial information on the crime but he could not give specific details as they still have operatives on the ground searching for the rest of the gunmen.

The arrested suspects had participated in the shooting on Saturday and it is in the hands of the DOJ to determine whether they will turn witnesses, he said.

Meanwhile, Pelare said the members of the Bayawan police have been relieved and replaced with new operatives.

The relieved policemen will be assigned to the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office.

“It is an operational and tactical decision to make sure remaining suspects will be arrested”, he said. They are making sure they have “fresh legs on the ground”, he added.

He said most of the suspects already in the custody of the government were arrested in Bayawan.

Maximum police presence, with the help of the Army, is up in Bayawan and neighboring areas, and security in Negros Island has been strengthened to ensure the arrest of the rest of the suspects, Pelare said.

He said there were ballistic matches with the ammunition used in the massacre and the firearms recovered.

Fingerprints taken from the vehicles used by the gunmen are also being processed, he said.

The recovered vehicles were registered in Cebu and they were still investigating whether their owners knew that they were used in a crime or they had been stolen, Pelare said.*

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