Ejercito: Absence of 5 of 6 police escorts of Degamo may not be a coincidence

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 13) — The absence of five out of six police personnel of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo on the day he was gunned down on March 4 was probably not a coincidence, Sen. JV Ejercito said on Monday.

“That is really too difficult to say that it’s a coincidence that five out of six security personnel did not report for duty that day. That is another angle that the DOJ [Department of Justice] and the investigating agencies should look into,” Ejercito told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

He said two of Degamo’s police escorts were the slain official’s personal staff, while the remaining were augmentation from the local government.

The lone person who reported was Degamo’s own personnel, who was also his cousin, Ejercito said.

“That was probably the reason why there was practically no resistance when these assailants attacked Degamo, only one was there,” he noted.

Ejercito also said he believes there was a massive failure of intelligence at the regional and provincial level of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“If you can see the movements of the assailants of Governor Degamo, they are obviously well-trained for this mission,” he pointed out. “That is already a failure of intelligence because it’s very impossible for the authorities not to even suspect that there is something happening.”

“The maintenance of armed groups and even having trainings of this type could not escape their eyes if they were really doing their job,” he added.

In their investigation, authorities have said some of the suspects in the killing of Degamo were former uniformed personnel who were dishonorably dismissed.

Four were already arrested, one was killed during an armed encounter, and at least five others remain at-large, the police said.

Following the incident, Ejercito called for the relief of police forces at the regional and provincial level as well as in some municipalities. This is to cleanse its ranks from those already compromised by armed groups, he said.

The PNP has said this will be done in waves since this will involve around 1,900 personnel, Ejercito noted.

The senator said he favors the declaration of a state of lawless violence or emergency, but only in Negros Oriental so as not to create unnecessary panic. More troops should be also deployed in the area until the armed groups are eliminated and locals are assured of their safety, he added.

According to Joint Task Force Negros acting spokesperson Maj. Cenon Pancito, around 300 personnel were so far deployed to 21 areas.

Operations are also ongoing to catch the perpetrators, he added.

Ejercito said a Senate hearing to be led by Sen. Bato dela Rosa may be conducted this month before the Congress adjourns for a break.