By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

(Photo courtesy of PNP)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) has revamped the entire force of the Bayawan City Police Station in Negros Oriental in the aftermath of last weekend’s attack that resulted in the death of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and eight civilians.

The move complies with the order of Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. for a reshuffle of all police units in the city and other local government units in the province.

In a news release Wednesday, the PNP Public Information Office said deputy chief for administration Lt. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia was in Bayawan City to enforce the directive.

A turnover ceremony was held at the Bayawan Police Station on Tuesday afternoon, which was presided by Sermonia.

Lt. Col. Stephen Amamaguid, former Provincial Public Safety Mobile Unit (PPSMU), Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office (Noppo) from Cebu took over as the new chief of police of Bayawan City, replacing Lt. Col. Rex Aboy Moslares.

Sermonia said the PNP has increased police presence with support from the military in Negros Oriental to maintain peace and order.

“The PNP will leave no stone unturned in tracking down the suspects in this heinous crime. The PNP is taking swift action to address the recent tragic event in Negros Oriental. We will do everything within our authority to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Governor Roel Degamo and the other victims of this senseless act of violence,” he added.

Lt. Col. Gerard Ace Pelare, spokesperson of Special Investigation Task Group Degamo, said personnel of the Bayawan City police would be replaced by personnel of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion.

Pelare said the replacement personnel would take over the tasks of the relieved police officers.

The relieved personnel will undergo a 30-day Character and Aptitude Development Training program (CADET), which tackles values formation, internal discipline, and PNP ethical standards, among others.

Degamo and eight others were gunned down inside his family’s compound in Pamplona town on March 4. He died a few hours later at a private hospital in Dumaguete City. Results of an autopsy conducted by the PNP’s regional forensic unit showed that he sustained 11 bullet wounds in his body.

“Four of the five suspects are former military men who were discharged from the service, were already arrested, while one was killed in an encounter. The two suspects are now in Camp Crame, while the other two are being evaluated by the Department of Justice if qualified under the Witness Protection Program,” Pelare said.

The initial ballistic examination also showed that recovered bullets from the body of Degamo came from one of the assault rifles recovered during the pursuit operations and prints from the recovered getaway vehicles were taken for comparison and DNA testing.

The owners of the vehicles were also identified and are being investigated for their possible involvement in the crime.

Pelare said “all of Negros Island is sealed” due to the ongoing pursuit operations.

Raising concerns

Also on Tuesday afternoon, members of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) and League of Executive Directors, Governor, and Local Chief Executives met with ranking police officials led by PNP deputy chief for operations Maj. Gen. Jonnel Estomo over the spate of killings against some of their colleagues.

During the meeting, the local officials asked if they could request additional security from the Police Security Protection Group (PSPG) if they are allowed to hire protective security from private security agencies.

They also asked about the guidelines on conducting checkpoints and coordination with local executives so that they are aware of whether it is a legitimate checkpoint conducted by the government forces or by lawless elements, and to tighten security to those identified high-risk places in collaboration with local executives.

Amid the attacks against local government officials, Abalos ordered the PNP to intensify its campaign against loose firearms and ensure intense police visibility on the streets to deter criminal acts.

Other local officials who became victims of attacks were Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal “Bombit” Alonto-Adiong Jr., Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda of Aparri, Cagayan, and Mayor Ohto Montawal of Tunggol, Datu Montawal, Maguindanao del Sur.

Adiong and Mayor Montawal survived but Alameda and his five companions were killed.

Adiong’s four security personnel, including three policemen, also died in the attack. (PNA)