SC grants DOJ’s request to transfer Degamo slay cases to a Manila court
MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday granted the request of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to transfer cases related to the killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo to a Manila court.
“The request to transfer the subject cases from Negros Oriental to Manila was made by DOJ Sec. Remulla, in a letter dated March 9, 2023, to Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, coursed through Court Administrator Raul Villanueva,” the SC said in a briefer sent to reporters.
Remulla, in his letter, said they “anticipate the filing of other cases related thereto, considering the number of victims who have yet to file complaints.”
The Justice Secretary mentioned three reasons for requesting a change of venue:
- that the significant media attention in Negros Oriental over Degamo’s killing has “created a hostile environment for the respondents”
- the threat of intimidation and harassment of the respondents, the private complainants, and their witnesses, which “could undermine the integrity of the trial”
- logistical difficulties of holding the trial in the province
Remulla also pointed out that the respondents, the four arrested for killing Degamo and eight others, are currently detained at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Custodial Center in Manila due to the lack of an adequate detention facility in the province for such a high-profile case. He likewise noted the possible security issues in the transportation and handling of the respondents.
To recall, four suspects in Degamo’s killing – Joric Garido Labrador, Joven Calibjo Javier, Benjie Rodriguez, and Osmundo Rojas Rivero – were brought to Manila last week following their arrests.
The four suspects have earlier signified their intention to cooperate with the authorities. The DOJ is evaluating their statements to determine if they could qualify for the Witness Protection Program.
The SC said Court Administrator Raul Villanueva did not pose an objection to Remulla’s request.
“The Court Administrator said a change of venue to Manila would be in the best interest of all parties involved. It would provide a neutral venue where the trial can be conducted fairly and impartially, free from any undue influence or bias.”