By Priam Nepomuceno

(File photo)

MANILA – The Philippine Army (PA) on Thursday said it is looking at the possibility of creating a counter-intelligence unit that will keep tabs on both active and former soldiers to prevent them from doing illegal activities.

This is in wake of the assassination of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo perpetrated by some dishonorably discharged soldiers last March 4.

“We are also exploring the possibility of creating a dedicated counter-intelligence unit that will work closely with the Philippine National Police to prevent illegal acts that may be committed by current or former Army soldiers,” PA spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said in a statement.

He also clarified that the PA also maintains a roster of all soldiers with special skills, including those who were dishonorably discharged.

“We call on all former soldiers to seek help if they are struggling with the transition to civilian life and to think carefully about the consequences of engaging in illegal activities,” he added.

Trinidad also stressed that the PA is and has always been a highly professional organization dedicated to serving the people and securing the land.

“It is also worth noting that the vast majority of former soldiers are law-abiding and contribute positively to their communities after their retirement from service,” he added.

Trinidad also pointed out that the PA is bolstering its values formation and character development programs.

“A soldier with strong core values stays ethical, disciplined, and professional even off the battlefield and beyond military service. We are also considering the review of the Philippine Army Transition Assistance Program which offers opportunities for education, training, livelihood, legal services, and financial counseling for retiring personnel for retiring soldiers,” he added.

Trinidad also revealed that the PA is looking at possibly expanding this program to include dishonorably discharged soldiers to help them start anew with their civilian lives.

NegOr guv slay case dev’t

Meanwhile, the gunmen behind the assassination of Degamo are now starting to talk and giving investigators identities of the masterminds, police official said on Thursday.

Col. Jean Fajardo, spokesperson of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said once all the pieces of evidence are collated, justice will be served to Degamo and eight other people who died and the more than 16 people who were wounded during the incident.

“The information shared by the suspects are very important. They have already executed extra-judicial confession and what they revealed has probative value, especially the video call between the suspects and the mastermind,” said Fajardo.

“The PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation believe that after we collated all the pieces of evidence, this case would be nearing its solution,” she added.

On Monday, PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin, Jr. disclosed that the four suspects arrested by the local police and military, including former soldiers, in pursuit operations have already started cooperating with the investigators.

All of the four suspects are now under the custody of the Department of Justice.

Asked of the motive behind the killing as disclosed by the suspects, Fajardo said there is no exact motive yet.

“But we are not discounting the political aspect in this case considering that Governor Degamo was an elected official,” said Fajardo.

Meanwhile, the PNP is continuously conducting internal investigation to determine the possible lapses that led to the death of Degamo.

Azurin earlier said that among the issues being looked into is the failure to comply with his order last month to all chiefs of police to conduct threat assessment on all elected and appointed public officials in their areas, the failure to conduct checkpoint that may have foiled the movement of Degamo killers and how the gunmen easily entered the governor’s residence compound.

Fajardo said that the entire police force of Bayawan City and Sta. Catalina town were already sacked and replaced.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla earlier revealed that the suspects in the March 4 brazen attack on Degamo and the alleged mastermind had a video call prior to the gun attack.

Remulla did not disclose the information on the topic of the video call. He added that there was also no motive mentioned. (with reports from Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)