Romualdez wants House probe on supposed missing security of Degamo on day of killing

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 12) — House Speaker Martin Romualdez is seeking a congressional investigation on the supposed missing security detail of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo on the day of his assassination, saying it was "highly suspicious."

"It appears that the perpetrators were aware of the fact that Gov. Degamo has practically no protection so they could easily accomplish their mission to assassinate him," Romualdez said in a statement Sunday.

Citing reports, Romualdez said five out of the six police escorts of Degamo did not report for duty on March 4, when at least 10 armed men entered the governor's residential compound and opened fire. Degamo and eight others were killed while several others were injured.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla shared the information in a radio interview on Saturday, calling it a "failure of intelligence" on the part of the Central Visayas police command.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) earlier said Degamo previously received death threats. PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin has admitted negligence regarding Degamo's security. 

"We want to find out why most of Gov. Degamo’s PNP security details went missing on that fateful day. We don’t want to blindly accuse anyone but the circumstances apparently point to collusion between some members of the PNP and the perpetrators of this dastardly crime," Romualdez said.

In a press briefing on Saturday, PNP spokesperson PCol. Jean Fajardo said Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos already told the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to locate the security personnel supposedly assigned to Degamo on that day.

"Remember ‘di lamang PNP ang nagpo-provide ng security kay Governor Degamo, merong security detail coming from the PNP and AFP," Fajardo told reporters.

[Translation: Remember, it's not only the PNP which provides security to Governor Degamo, the security detail come from both the PNP and AFP.]

The House Speaker said there were "striking parallels" between the killing of Degamo and the 2019 assassination of Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, who was then running for Mayor of Daraga, Albay.

According to Romualdez, two of the three police escorts of Batocabe were pulled out days before he was fatally shot despite threats to his life.

"If we find out in this congressional inquiry that some PNP personnel were in cahoots with the perpetrators to remove the security protection of Gov. Degamo, we will recommend the filing of appropriate criminal charges against everyone involved," he said.

Meanwhile, local authorities in Negros Oriental and nearby provinces have started implementing additional security measures as they continue to run after the suspects still at large.

READ: Heightened security in Negros Oriental, nearby areas as manhunt for Degamo slay suspect continues