A Catholic bishop has condemned the “gruesome” killing of Gov. Roel Degamo of Negros Oriental and five others on Saturday, March 4.
Bishop Julito Cortes of Dumaguete described the incident as a “heart-breaking and senseless act of murder.”
“How can we ever have lasting peace if we keep living in a culture of violence?” Bishop Cortes said. “When will this cycle of killings ever stop?”
Police reports said a group of heavily armed men entered Degamo’s residence and opened fire on the governor and the gathered civilians before escaping.
The bishop offered condolences to the family of the late governor and the bereaved families of the others who were killed,
“May the God of compassion pour forth upon you all the strength and consolation you need in this time of great sorrow,” said Bishop Cortes.
He called on the authorities to bring the perpetrators of the bloodshed to justice.
At least three suspects have so far been arrested by local police in relation to the killings.
The prelate also encouraged the faithful to continue praying the “Oratio Imperata to End Killings in the Province” until the resolution of the murders on the island.
“God knows the anguish of our hearts, Brothers and Sisters. So, do not be discouraged. The Lord of love and mercy will never abandon us,” Bishop Cortes said.
Police said six suspects carrying rifles and dressed in uniforms similar to those worn by the armed services entered the governor’s home in Pamplona town and opened fire.
“Governor Degamo did not deserve that kind of death. He was serving his constituents on a Saturday,” Janice Degamo, who is also the mayor of Pamplona, said in a video posted on Facebook.
President Ferdinand Marcos condemned what he described as the “assassination” of his political ally and warned the perpetrators to “surrender now it will be your best option.”
“My government will not rest until we have brought the perpetrators of this dastardly and heinous crime to justice,” Marcos added.
The politician was distributing aid to constituents when he was shot, provincial police spokesman Kym Lopez told AFP.
Police said they were searching for 10 suspects, including the six gunmen, who fled the scene in two SUVs and a pickup truck before abandoning the vehicles in a nearby city.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos appealed for witnesses to come forward and help police “get justice” for Degamo.
Degamo, 56, is the latest target in the Philippines’ long history of attacks on politicians. He is at least the third to be shot since last year’s general election.
The Supreme Court last month declared him the rightful winner of the contest for the Negros Oriental governorship following a recount that unseated his local rival, who had previously been proclaimed the victor.
Degamo had also campaigned for Marcos during his candidacy for president last year.
Mamintal Adiong, governor of the southern province of Lanao del Sur, was shot and wounded in February in an attack that killed his driver and three police escorts.
That same month, the vice-mayor of the northern town of Aparri, Rommel Alameda, and five other people who were travelling with him were shot dead in a highway ambush.
In the bloodiest politically motivated ambush on record, the leaders of a powerful southern clan and about two dozen followers were sentenced to life in prison for a 2009 attack on supporters of a gubernatorial election rival in Maguindanao province.
The attack left 58 people dead, including the politician’s wife and relatives, along with 32 journalists and media workers who were covering the race. – with reports from CBCP News and AFP