Joint police and military authorities recovered early Sunday a cache of firearms and explosives believed to have been used in the assassination of Governor Roel Degamo in Barangay Cansumalig, Bayawan City, Negros Oriental.
Lt. Col. Gerard Ace Pelare, spokesperson of the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Degamo, said in a press briefing that the arms cache was found around 1:30 a.m. near where the vehicles used by the suspects were abandoned.
The recovered items include five assault rifles (5.56mm); a B40 (rocket-propelled grenade launcher) with five ammunition; four bandoliers fully loaded with plates; one rifle case; two combat uniforms; a grey sweatshirt; and three pairs of combat boots.
Meanwhile, a fourth suspect was killed during an encounter around 9 p.m. Saturday, also in Barangay Cansumalig, after he refused to surrender and traded shots with law enforcers.
His identity has yet to be established.
Three other suspects who were arrested hours after the Saturday morning assault at the governor’s house in Pamplona town were identified as Joric Labrador, 50, married, of Cagayan de Oro City; Joven Aber, 42, married, of Barangay Robles, La Castellana, Negros Occidental; and Benjie Rodriguez, 45, married, and a resident of Bonifacio, Misamis Occidental.
All three are former Army soldiers who were dishonorably discharged due to alleged involvement in illegal drugs and for being absent without official leave.
All three held the rank of corporal, with one of them a former Scout Ranger, who is supposedly trained in anti-guerrilla jungle warfare, raids, ambushes, close-quarters combat, urban warfare and sabotage.
Meanwhile, a command conference is set at the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office Sunday morning with National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, Department of the Interior and Local Government Sec. Benjamin Abalos Jr., Department of National Defense Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Andres Centino, and Philippine National Police chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., among others.
Azurin vowed to use all means to identify, arrest and charge the mastermind and perpetrators behind the brutal slaying of Degamo.
“The PNP has been working relentlessly to locate the other suspects involved in the shooting of Governor Degamo and his constituents in his residence yesterday,” Azurin said in a statement on Sunday.
“The SITG (Special Investigation Task Group) is working on the double with our AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) counterparts to ensure that the remaining suspects will be arrested and justice will be served the soonest possible time,” he added.
The Philippine Army, for its part, condemned the “cowardly act” of the perpetrators, particularly those who had formerly served as members of the Armed Forces.
“According to police reports, the arrested suspects are former Army soldiers. Notably, they were dishonorably discharged from the military service several years back as they did not meet the standards of discipline among our ranks. As a highly professional organization, the PA does not condone the unauthorized use of uniforms, firearms or insignias by any group or individual,” Army spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement late Saturday. (with reports from Christopher Lloyd Caliwan, Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)