Death toll in brazen Philippine shooting now at 9: police

Jojo Riñoza and Jeoffrey Maitem
Death toll in brazen Philippine shooting now at 9: police A man walks past the residence of the late provincial governor, Roel Degamo, in Pamplona town in Negros Oriental, on March 5, 2023, a day after the governor and eight others were killed in a mass shooting at the compound.
Ferdinand Edralin / AFP

Police have updated the death toll in a brazen political shooting in the central Philippines to nine but say they are still investigating its motive.

Senior officials including President Ferdinand E. Marcos Jr. have condemned the attack targeting Roel Degamo, 56, the governor of Negros Oriental province.

Degamo was meeting with local people at his official residence Saturday when a group of about 10 armed men clad in battle gear arrived and asked to speak with the governor, then fired on people inside the compound.  Degamo was rushed to the hospital but passed away hours later due to wounds he sustained.

Police initially said six people died, but later updated the toll to nine, and said 13 others injured in the attack were still in hospital.

“We are not yet definite on the motive and all angles are being looked upon. Our investigators are still on the ground,” regional police spokesman Lt. Col. Gerard Ace Pelare said in a statement. Three suspects were in custody while a fourth was shot during a hot pursuit operation, Pelare said.

“He fired at the composite team and [they] retaliated, resulting in the death of the suspect,” he said.

As of late Saturday, “nine victims succumbed to death in various hospitals, 13 are confined with various injuries and four incurred minor injuries and are now out of the hospital,” Pelare’s statement said.

In addition to Degamo, the dead were named as local village officials Jose Marie Ramirez and Florenda Quinikito, and civilians Jessie Bot-ay, Jomar Canseco, Crispin Vallega, Jerome Maguiling, Joseph Retada and Michael Fabugais.

Among those injured were a doctor, a local broadcaster and two soldiers, it said.

 Lawmen on Sunday displayed evidence they had gathered from the suspects, including four assault rifles, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with ammunition, four bandoliers fully loaded with plates, a rifle case, a caliber 5.56 with six magazines, and assorted ammunition.

In Manila, armed forces spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar condemned the attack as a “cowardly act” and promised the military would help the police in the apprehension of the suspects.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, meanwhile, offered a 5-million-peso reward (US$ 91,305) for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the attackers. 

Degamo assumed the governship of Negros Oriental last month after a recount unseated his rival, who had been declared the victor following a contentious election, according to AFP.

Marcos, a political ally of the slain governor,  condemned the attack and vowed that justice would be done. 

“My government will not rest until we have brought the perpetrators of this dastardly and heinous crime to justice,” the president said Saturday.

“We have received much information and now have a clear direction on how to proceed to bring to justice those behind this killing,” he added.

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

On Feb. 17, four policemen were killed and three other people, including a provincial governor, were wounded in a roadside ambush in the volatile southern Philippines. 

Police officers were escorting a convoy transporting Gov. Mamintal Adiong when unidentified gunmen attacked them on a highway near Maguing town in Lanao del Sur province. A police operation resulted in the death of one of the suspects.

Also last month, gunmen disguised as police officers waylaid a van of Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda of Aparri town in Nueva Vizcaya province, in the northern Philippines, killing him and five companions.

 Froilan Gallardo and Richel V. Umel in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines and Roel Pareño in Zamboanga City, Philippines contributed to this report


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