Suspect killed, 3 arrested in killing of Philippine governor

March 5, 2023 GMT

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Police have killed one suspect and arrested three others in the brazen shootings that killed a central Philippine provincial governor and eight others, including poor villagers seeking aid from the political leader, officials said Sunday.

The killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo at his home on Saturday by at least six men armed with assault rifles and wearing military-like camouflage uniforms and bullet-resistant vests was the deadliest in a series of attacks on politicians in recent weeks in the country.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. condemned the killing of Degamo, who backed him in the presidential election last year, and said his “government will not rest until we have brought the perpetrators of this dastardly and heinous crime to justice.”

Degamo was meeting poor villagers who were seeking medical and other help when the armed men walked calmly into his residential compound in Pamplona town and opened fire. They fled in three SUVs, which were later abandoned in a nearby town and from which about 10 men were seen fleeing, according to police reports.

At least 17 others, including a doctor and two army soldiers, were wounded, police said.

Police quickly set up road checkpoints and later Saturday arrested three suspects, including two former army soldiers, and killed one in a clash as they chased the gunmen. A number of rifles and a pistol were recovered from the suspects, police said without elaborating or disclosing if they have determined a motive for the attack.

Degamo, a longtime politician, initially lost the race for Negros Oriental’s governorship in last year’s elections but was later installed governor after filing a court petition. He said a few years ago without elaborating that he had received death threats in the province, which has a history of bloody political conflicts and communist insurgency-related violence.

Degamo’s killing underscores that even local politicians are not immune from high-profile gun violence that has persisted despite the government’s pledge to combat it.

Last month, Gov. Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr. of southern Lanao del Sur province was wounded and four of his bodyguards killed in an attack on their convoy. Police said they killed one of the suspects in a clash and have identified others who were to be charged for the bloody attack soon.

In a separate recent attack, unidentified men reportedly wearing police uniforms fired at the van of northern Aparri town Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda, killing him and five companions in northern Nueva Vizcaya province. The suspects remain at large.

Crimes, decades-long Muslim and communist rebellions, and other security concerns are some of the major problems inherited by Marcos, who took office in June last year.