Roel Degamo, governor of the Negros Oriental province in the Philippines, has been shot dead by yet-to-be-identified gunmen. The men, dressed in military uniforms opened fire on the 56-year-old at his residence using assault rifles, according to local police. Five others were said to have been killed in the attack.
Several others were also injured during the attack, but the police said on Saturday that they were unaware of how they were faring.
The attack occurred on Saturday when residents were gathered in front of the governor’s house to seek cash and other assistance. The Police said they are searching for the suspects, which are about 10, including six gunmen.
“Governor Degamo did not deserve that kind of death. He was serving his constituents on a Saturday,” Janice Degamo, widow of the governor, wrote on Facebook.
In a recently conducted governorship election in Negros Oriental province, Degamo’s rival was declared the winner. However, after a recount, Degamo was declared the rightful winner of the election. It is unclear if his political rivals were responsible for the attack pending the outcome of the investigation by the police.
Reacting to Degamo’s assassination, President Marcos Jnr said his government would not rest until the criminals involved in the attack are brought to justice for what he described as a “heinous crime.”
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the assassination of a sitting Governor, Gov. Roel Degamo of Negros Oriental,” President Marcos said. The investigation into this murder is developing rapidly. We have received much information and now have a clear direction on how to proceed to bring to justice those behind this killing.
“I am warning all those involved in this killing: you can run but you cannot hide. We will find you. If you surrender now it will be your best option,” he added.
Five million pesos await anyone who could identify the murderers
The Philipines Justice Department has offered five million pesos ($90,000) for anyone that could provide information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators and masterminds of the governor’s assassination.
“Secretary Remulla has put up a reward of FIVE MILLION PESOS to anyone who can give vital information or evidence to charge and prosecute the perpetrators and mastermind/s behind the murder-assassination of Governor Degamo and the five (5) civilians,” the statement by the Justice Department reads.
It went on to condemn the killing of the 56-year-old, who was pronounced governor 14 days ago by the Supreme Court.
“The violent and senseless manner by which the perpetrators carried out their plan cannot and will not be tolerated,” the statement continued. “Not only did they kill their target but they killed innocent civilians along the way. There is absolutely no room for such evil doings in this country.”
One of the suspects was reportedly shot dead after a shoot-out with the police. Others have been arrested following the incident, but the police were yet to release a detailed report to show if they were directly linked to the crime.
The troubling history of political attacks in the Philippines
There is nothing new in attacking Politicians in the Philippines and the Negros Oriental province. Attack on governors and other politicians has become so frequent that it is no longer surprising to many in the country.
Last month, the governor of the Lanao del Sur province, Mamintal Adiong, was attacked by gunmen. Although he managed to escape with injuries, his driver and three police escorts were killed.
Shortly after that incident, the vice-mayor of the town of Aparri, Rommel Alameda and five others were ambushed and killed.
In 2009, supporters of a gubernatorial election candidate in the Maguindanao province were attacked. At least 58 people were killed, including the politician’s wife and 32 journalists. More than 20 people, including leaders of a clan in Southern Philipines, have been sentenced to life in prison for the attack.
Negro Oriental gets a new governor
Following the death of Roel Degamo, Carlo Jorge Joan Reyes was sworn in as the new governor of the province. Reyes was deputy governor of the province before Saturday’s deadly attack.
He took his oath of office on Saturday evening.