By Priam Nepomuceno
MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. has encouraged the public to share with authorities all the information they might know about the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and eight others on March 4.
In a statement Saturday night, Galvez assured the government would use all the information they would gather “to get the justice everyone deserves.”
He said the joint special task force, which consists of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), has a unified command center for more accessibility to civilians.
Galvez also assured the continued support of AFP to the special task force, in accordance with the verbal instructions of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to suppress lawless violence in Negros Oriental.
“Under the orders of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., we have organized a joint task force to step up the joint law enforcement operations of the AFP and PNP in Negros to implement the clear directive of the President to ensure that such incidents do not happen again,” he said.
Galvez, along with AFP chief of staff Gen. Andres Centino and PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia, will help supervise the task force
Medardo de Lemos, National Bureau of Investigation chief, is also designated as a task force commander.
“The joint AFP-PNP law enforcement operations, under the supervision of the inter-agency task force headed by the Secretary (Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos) of DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government), myself, and (Department of Justice) Secretary (Jesus Crispin) Remulla, aim to speed up the suppression of impunity in the entire island, and give justice to the families and loved ones of those who were slain the in the attack against Governor Degamo,” he said.
Sermonia, meanwhile, reaffirmed the PNP’s cooperation with other agencies, as well as their continued investigations on the shooting of Degamo and eight others.
Galvez and Centino were in Negros Oriental on Saturday to visit the wake of Degamo at the provincial capitol in Dumaguete City and meet with Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, the late governor’s wife.
They also visited the 302nd Infantry Brigade, led by Brig. Gen. Leonardo Peña, and the newly deployed Light Reaction Company in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.
The unit will join the newly created task force.
Galvez likewise assured the families of the slain victims that justice will be attained and peace will once again reign in the province.
“The President is very firm in his guidance to solve the case as swiftly as possible, and bring these lawless elements to justice,” he said. “There is always time for reckoning and this day is that time.”
Centino, on the other hand, reiterated that the task force was created so that there will be a “unity of effort” in restoring peace and confidence in the people of Negros Oriental.
The task force is composed of two brigades with three battalions each.
The units are currently doing specific tasks but in light of the incident, they will give additional support to PNP law enforcement operations.
“We tasked the forces currently assigned here in Negros to make sure that all of them are aligned and they understand what they are supposed to be doing. We also deployed these forces in areas where we think they are needed the most,” Centino said.
“The deployment of the forces in Negros is to assure the people that the government is here, is working and is making sure that peace and order will prevail in this part of the country,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mayor Degamo expressed her appreciation to officials for their swift response to the situation.
“It has given us a ray of hope that soon we will be able to see justice,” she said, adding she is grateful that President Marcos visited them and assured them that justice will be served.
Resolution of case ‘nearing’
On Saturday, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the joint special task force is nearing the resolution of the case.
“With the pieces of evidence at hand, naniniwala ang STF (the special task force believes) we are nearing the solution of these cases. We are just fine-tuning ang finalizing some of the evidence at hand, kasama na nga diyan ‘yung mga (including) material revelation and pieces of evidence like evidence collected by the Forensic Group of the PNP,” she said.
“The STF is really confident that in the coming days, we can unmask already the people behind this heinous crime,” she added. (With reports from Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)