By Nanette Guadalquiver
BACOLOD CITY – Almost two weeks after he was assassinated, Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo was laid to rest Thursday afternoon amid cries for justice from his family and thousands of constituents, at his hometown of Siaton.
The day of his funeral was declared by Malacañang a special non-working holiday in the province to allow the community to grieve and honor the memory of the 56-year-old Degamo and the eight other victims, who were gunned down by at least 10 assailants at the governor’s residence in Pamplona town on March 4.
“Justice for Roel Degamo!,” the slain governor’s spouse, Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, cried out at the Degamo family mausoleum in Barangay Bonawon.
The governor was buried alongside his parents and sister.
Earlier outside the family home, supporters were crying and shouting “Justice! Justice!” while Degamo’s casket was being transported for the funeral procession going to the St. Vincent Ferrer Parish, where a mass was officiated by Bishop Julio Cortes of the Diocese of Dumaguete.
In his homily, Cortes said the governor’s death made the people of Negros Oriental unite in fighting the culture of violence and impunity.
“We pray that the cycle of violence and unsolved killings in Negros Oriental will end,” he said.
Around 7,000 to 10,000 people from across the province attended the funeral, based on the estimates of the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office.
Ceres buses transported residents who paid their last respects to the slain official.
During the interment rites, personnel of the Philippine National Police sent off Degamo to his final resting place with a 21-gun salute while family members released white balloons.
On social media, the live streaming on the Facebook pages of Degamo and of the provincial government were flooded with crying emojis.
Netizens post messages such as “Rest in peace, our beloved Governor,” “You are a great leader and icon of Negros Oriental,” “Thank you for your kindness, we will miss you” and “We’re praying for justice, Gov.”
On the morning of March 4, a group of armed men entered the Degamo residential compound while the governor was meeting residents asking for assistance.
The assailants fired at the governor and others around him, leaving nine of them dead. At least 17 others were injured in the shooting.
Six suspects have already been identified, including four now in the custody of the Department of Justice.
Another suspect has surrendered while another one, said to be a former New People’s Army rebel, was killed in a shootout by pursuing troops.
The name of Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnulfo Teves surfaced during the investigation into the killing but the lawmaker is in the US reportedly for medical treatment and has filed a two-month leave of absence for security reasons. (PNA)