Another mastermind named in Degamo slay
MANILA, Philippines — Authorities are now at the tail-end of the quest for justice in the murder of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo following the arrest of another mastermind tagged as the “missing vital link” and one of the main conspirators behind the slaying.
Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos, who also chairs the interagency Special Task Force Degamo, said that Marvin Miranda, who was arrested on March 31, recruited the 11 former Army soldiers who were hired as hit men, and provided logistical and material support in the planning and execution of the assassination plot against Degamo.
In an interagency press conference on Monday at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, Abalos said Miranda received instructions from Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr., the alleged “main mastermind,” whom the suspect referred to as “Boss Idol,” “Big Boss,” and “Kalbo.”
This was the first time that the task force said with certainty that Teves was among the masterminds in the killing of the governor. The lawmaker, who has yet to return to the country, had earlier denied his involvement in the murder of his political rival.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla compared the March 4 killing of Degamo to a movie where Miranda was “the director, producer of the props and casting director,” and Teves was the “producer or executive producer of the whole production,” while the 11 hit men were the actors in the film.
Remulla said it was “reasonable to say” that it was the lawmaker who funded the hit men and the firearms used in the brazen killing.
“But unlike the cinema which is fiction, this one is reality. They indeed killed Governor Degamo and eight others, and many more were hurt,” he said.
According to Abalos, Miranda, a military reservist with a “very strong connection” to Teves, was a longtime security and bodyguard of the Negros Oriental lawmaker.
He was arrested on June 29, 2020, in Malay, Aklan province, for illegal possession of firearms.
His case was heard by the Kalibo Regional Trial Court, wherein Miranda pleaded guilty. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to up to two years imprisonment and fined P10,000.
According to National Bureau of Investigation Director Medardo de Lemos, Miranda was arrested during a “hot pursuit” operation at a mountain resort in Barangay Mayabay, Barbaza town, Antique province, where he had been hiding since March 23.
Abalos said the name of Miranda was raised by “almost all” of the 10 hit men currently under NBI custody in their affidavits as the one who recruited and paid them.
On Monday, Miranda was brought to the Department of Justice in Manila to undergo inquest proceedings on nine counts of murder, as well as frustrated murder and attempted murder complaints.
“With the arrest of Marvin Miranda, we are certain that the pieces of the puzzle are almost complete and we can clearly figure out what transpired before, during and after the brazen attack in Pamplona, which will eventually help us in unmasking and identifying the main conspirators and main masterminds behind the gruesome murder of Degamo and others,” the interior secretary said.
For Remulla, the Degamo case was already considered “case closed.”
Abalos, however, said he believed there were other masterminds, aside from Teves and Miranda, who remain at large. He did not elaborate.
Remulla said the current investigation was also looking into the possible involvement of a criminal organization in carrying out the killing of Degamo.
“We are looking if there are still characters in the periphery who are involved in the case. We see a few more people that we should investigate for their roles,” he added.
Despite the damning evidence authorities currently have that point to Teves as the “main mastermind,” the justice secretary conceded that authorities could not yet prosecute the lawmaker.
Teves has not yet been included among the respondents of the criminal complaint involving the assassination of Degamo, which also killed eight civilians and injured at least 18 others.
“We must observe due process. We could not file charges against him without a preliminary investigation, where he could answer the charges by filing a counteraffidavit,” Remulla said.
“That’s what we’re only waiting for. But otherwise, the boxing [match] is finished, we have arrested all of the [main suspects],” he added.
Without his being indicted by prosecutors, the case against Teves could not be elevated to the courts, which has the authority to issue a warrant of arrest.
But with the evidence authorities currently have, Remulla said he was certain that a warrant against Teves would be issued by the court.
Remulla also clarified that Miranda was being represented by the Public Attorney’s Office and not by a lawyer claiming to be his counsel.
Former Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo earlier said he was representing Miranda.
“There’s a person claiming to be Miranda’s lawyer. But Miranda did not know who he was,” Remulla noted.
Sought for comment, Teves’ lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, said they would just await the filing of whatever charges might be made, and say their piece in the proper forum.