Thousands mourn at funeral for Philippine governor killed by gunmen

Camille Elemia
Thousands mourn at funeral for Philippine governor killed by gunmen Police carry the coffin of Roel Degamo, who served as governor of Negros Oriental province, during a funeral march in the municipality of Siaton, Philippines, March 16, 2023.
Municipality of Siaton handout

Thousands of people attended the funeral Thursday of a central Philippine governor who was killed by gunmen at his home on March 4.

Negros Oriental province Gov. Roel Degamo was laid to rest in his family’s compound in the municipality of Siaton.

Mourners grieved as his funeral cortege made its way to a nearby parish for a Mass. Many of those in attendance had been ferried by government-sponsored vehicles from different parts of the province.

“We pray that the cycle of violence and unsolved killings in Negros Oriental end with him,” said Bishop Julito Cortes, who officiated the Mass.

Degamo, 56, was killed by a group of 10 armed men who barged into his residence in central Negros Oriental province, in what is considered to be one of the most brazen politically related attacks in recent times. He was the apparent target, although eight other people, including constituents, were killed.

Four suspects have been arrested in connection with the attack and are in custody.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a political ally of Degamo, declared Thursday a special non-working holiday in the province.

Call for Senate investigation

Just before Degamo was laid to rest, his widow, Janice, who serves as the mayor of the municipality of Pamplona, shouted, “Justice for Roel Degamo.” Mourners repeated the phrase.

Before the funeral, Mrs. Degamo reiterated her allegation that her husband’s rival, Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. was behind the killing, adding her family had no plans to retaliate with violence.

“I just want to see them behind bars, that’s all. But if they fight the authorities, it’s better for them to die. If they really fight back, then they should die. You will be doing Negros Oriental a big favor,” she told reporters.

Teves has denied any involvement and is in the United States, according to his attorney. He was to return on March 9, but has extended his travels.

The lawmaker had requested a two-month leave of absence from the House of Representatives over security threats.

“It does not sit well for a House Member to flee the country rather than avail himself of all the legal remedies available to him,” House Speaker Martin Romualdez, a cousin of Marcos, said in a statement on Thursday. 

Teves faces a murder complaint in relation to at least three killings in the province in 2019.

Mrs. Degamo called Teves’ claim of security threats an excuse.

“When they entered our house and did that to the governor, was that a sign of fear? That’s not a sign of fear. That’s a sign showing people that they could do anything even if you’re the government,” she said.

She called on the Senate to investigate Degamo’s death and other Negros Oriental killings. 

Degamo’s killing was the third incident in a series of high-profile attacks against local government officials in the country in about a month.

The worst violence related to politics occurred on Nov. 23, 2009, when 58 people, including 32 journalists and media workers, were killed when members of the Ampatuan clan ambushed a convoy of their rival in the southern province of Maguindanao.


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