Governor Degamo’s dying words: Help the people
DUMAGUETE CITY — “Tabang…ang mga taw… (Help…the people…).”
These were the last words of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo before losing consciousness after he was shot inside the compound of his house on March 4 in Barangay San Isidro, Pamplona town, about 47 km north of this city.
The attack perpetrated by at least six armed men also killed eight other people, including a Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiary, two village officials and three security personnel, and wounded 16 others.
Board Member Nyrth Degamo, the governor’s nephew, said he was inside his car at the parking lot when he heard his uncle’s weak voice on the handheld radio, asking for help.
“’Tabang, ang mga taw… (Help…the people…),’ were my uncle’s last words,” said Nyrth.
He told the Inquirer that he immediately rushed to get inside the compound. On the way, he saw the governor’s driver, running to get the vehicle, shouting at him that Degamo had been shot.
Nyrth said he saw his uncle lying in a pool of blood. He was already unconscious.
He said they immediately brought him to the nearest hospital, the Polymedic Hospital in Sibulan town, which was about 40 km away from Pamplona.
But the governor had already died, despite efforts by the physicians to revive him.
Carlo Degamo, the governor’s son, said the family was asking for justice as his father didn’t deserve to die in such a gruesome way.
He said he would always be afraid, worried about who would be next to be killed.
The family of the governor’s security guard, who was among those slain, was also seeking justice.
The family of Crispin Vallega, 40, wanted whoever ordered the gunmen to perpetrate the attack to be arrested.
“They took away the father of my three sons. My husband was a good man, but they just killed him. Now, my children will grow up without a father,” said Mylene in Cebuano.
The 26-year-old homemaker was also in a quandary on how to raise her three sons—John Paul, 8; Lawrence, 5; and Nathan, 2.
“That is my problem now. How can I support my children now that my husband is gone,” she added.
Mylene said she was worried about John Paul because he would sometimes suffer anxiety attacks and could not breath.
“He promised himself that he would study hard so he would become a policeman because he wanted to avenge his father’s death,” said Mylene.
Lawrence, on the other hand, kept asking her why his father was sleeping all the time. “I just had to tell him that his father would no longer wake up,” she added.
Mylene said her husband had been working as a security guard for the governor for four years.
That fateful morning, while he was preparing for his duty that ran from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., he kept kissing her and telling her how pretty she was.
“I didn’t realize that that was the last time he would kiss me,” said Mylene.
She said she learned about the attack on Facebook.
With her heart racing, she kept calling her husband’s cellular phone, but no one answered.
She was later told to go to Silliman University Medical Center in Dumaguete, where she found him in the morgue.
Carlo Degamo, the governor’s only son, said his father’s security personnel had warned Degamo of the danger of his weekend meetings with his constituents amid the death threats he had been receiving.
But Carlo added his father insisted on doing it, saying he was not just a father to his children but also to the entire province.
“He had been doing this every Saturday despite the advice of his security team that it was not safe. But the governor insisted on it,” said Carlo.
Carlo said they tried holding the consultations on the second floor of their house, where each visitor would be frisked before being allowed inside.
But Degamo scrapped it later after seeing the number of people on the ground, waiting to be accommodated.
Degamo decided to fence the front entrance of his house and build a roof over it to accommodate more people.
He also brought department heads, such as the provincial health doctors, to give his constituents direct access to address their concerns.
That morning of March 4, more than 100 people were already inside the compound to ask for burial and financial assistance, among others.
Carlo said a group of armed men in full battle gear went to the house.
The security guard at the gate asked about their purpose, but one of the gunmen managed to slip inside.
A few seconds later, the four gunmen were able to get inside the vicinity.
“If we looked at the CCTV, one suspect was just standing holding a firearm. He appeared to be looking for the governor. When the gunman saw him, they shot the security guard first, causing panic among the people inside,” he said.
One gunman went toward the governor and peppered him with bullets. Others fired at the people and the governor’s security personnel.