According to Justice Secretary Remulla
Government operatives have seized Thursday evening at a sugar mill compound in Sta. Catalina town several personal items belonging to the suspects in the March 4 murder of Gov. Roel Degamo and eight others, the Joint Task Force Negros said.
The personal items were found with the use of a backhoe on the premises of the HDJ-Bayawan Agri-Venture Corp. Tolong in barangay Caranoche in the southern town of Sta. Catalina, reportedly headed by former Negros Oriental Gov. Pryde Henry Teves.
The recovered items included burned clothes, burned identification cards, tampered automated teller machine cards, and assorted documents that reportedly belonged to some of the identified suspects.
Also found were one silencer, a soldering iron, rifle cleaning paraphernalia, empty slugs of .45 caliber, a Swiss knife, and a tacker used for paper shooting targets.
The latest discovery was part of the continuous operations led by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, with the help of the JTFN composed of soldiers and the police. The series of raids started on March 24, after a Mandaue Court judge issued a search warrant.
During the raids, operatives seized several high-powered firearms, explosives, and thousands of rounds of ammunition within the premises of the Tolong sugar mill.
Former Gov. Henry Teves said that while he is the president of the company, he only owns 10 percent of it, and it has five other incorporators.
Meanwhile, Teves voluntarily surrendered some firearms and ammunition to the police on Thursday, a day after he filed a waiver at the Hall of Justice here, allowing authorities to search his phone, email, and bank accounts.
The former Governor is a younger brother of suspended 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr., who has been tagged by the Department of Justice as one of the masterminds in the killing of Degamo and eight others.
PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said Nigel Lagunay Electona, a former cop assigned at Dumaguete City Police Office, was arrested on March 24 during the service of a search warrant at the HDJ Bayawan Agri-ventures Corp. Tolong.
“Based po sa report na binigay sa atin ng STG PRO7 [Special Task Group Police Regional Office] ay malaki po ang naging papel nitong si Mr. Nigel dahil lumalabas sa mga report at impormasyon sa previously-arrested na mga suspects na accordingly, itong si Nigel ay kasama sa pagpaplano at in fact, siya po ang tumulong dito sa ating mga gunmen para i-casing at surveillance itong bahay ni Governor Degamo. (Based on the report given to us by STG PRO7, Mr. Nigel played a big role because it appears from reports and information from the suspects arrested earlier that Nigel was involved in the planning, and in fact, had helped our gunmen in the casing and surveillance of Governor Degamo’s house),” Fajardo told reporters in a press conference held at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Fajardo said that on March 26, police raided Electona’s residence in barangay Villareal in Bayawan City by virtue of a search warrant, which yielded alleged illegal firearms and ammunition, hand grenades, pictures of Degamo and his family, maps, house routes, and a photo of the gate of Degamo’s residence.
Fajardo said Electona was arrested for illegal drugs in 2016, and was dismissed from the police service in 2017.
In an interview with ABS-CBN, Henry Teves explained that his brother Arnie, and Electona had met at the local drug rehabilitation center where Arnie was counselor and Electona was undergoing rehab. When the Teveses re-acquired the Tolong Sugar Mill from Universal Robina Corp./ Gokongwei group after 2020, Arnie advised Electona to establish his own security agency to provide security services at the HDJ Tolong compound.
Fajardo said Henry Teves has a lot to explain following the seizure of a large cache of firearms, and the arrest of the owner of the sugar mill’s security agency.
In the same ABS interview, Henry Teves explained that he would not be surprised about the discovery of loose firearms at his business site because Electona’s security agency had failed to renew their juridical license to own and possess firearms. He added that he had issued a directive to the security agency to renew their LTOP [license to own and possess] or be replaced.
Henry Teves said he was advised by his lawyer Raymond Fortun to refrain from issuing comments on the matter until the police complete their search.
Interior & Local Government Sec. Benjamin Abalos Jr. said the items that were seized during these operations are “believed to have been used during the planning stage of the murder” of Degamo.
“In light of these recent developments, the Special Task Force Degamo is very confident that we are nearing to the end of unmasking the masterminds behind the shocking and gruesome murder of Governor Degamo and [the] others,” Abalos said.
“Sa pagkakataong ito, ito lang ang message ko sa mastermind: Alam kong alam mo kung sino ka. Sumuko ka na! Lahat ng ebidensyang ito nakita naman natin sa ilang nakaraang araw. ‘Yung mga mismong pumatay nasa kustodiya na. Habang tumatagal, ang dami na [ebidensya]. (At this time, this is my only message for the mastermind: I know that you know who you are. Surrender now! We have gathered all these evidences in the last few days. The killers themselves are already in custody. More evidences [are being discovered] over time),” he added.
Abalos said investigators are still assessing if Henry Teves would also be considered among the “brains” behind Degamo’s killing.
Eight other individuals were also killed in the incident, perpetrated mostly by former Philippine Army soldiers who are all now under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation.
Justice Sec. Jesus Crispin Remulla also said on Friday that the NBI had arrested one of the major players in the killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo, making the case “99 percent solved”.
The NBI eventually arrested Marvin Halaman Miranda, 33, a resident of barangay Villareal in Bayawan City, who had eluded authorities the last three weeks. Miranda was arrested in the town of Barbaza in the province of Antique.
Remulla said, on his own reading of the situation, he would consider Miranda as “one of the masterminds”.
Two of the suspects in the March 4 massacre had told GMA News in Manila that they had been taking orders from “Marvin”, now believed to be the same Marvin Miranda who was recently captured.
“For the last three weeks, we were on his trail already,” Secretary Remulla said, adding that he ordered a manhunt for the person after his name was mentioned in the affidavits of the other suspects in the custody of the NBI.
Miranda was also one of those arrested in 2020 in Caticlan, Aklan, as they were reportedly bringing in a cache of weapons to carry out an assassination attempt of Degamo.
Meanwhile, law enforcers are looking at possible terrorist-related activities in Negros Oriental following the confiscation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and components during a series of raids at a sugar mill in Sta. Catalina town over the weekend.
Col. Thomas Valmonte, CIDG legal counsel, told reporters in a press briefing at the Sibulan airport here on Sunday afternoon that they will do a trace on the IEDs.
He said he believes the presence of these IEDs would indicate possible “terroristic” activity.
“If you possess that [IEDs], there is an indication of an act of terrorism so we are looking at the angle of terrorism here, and we will submit these explosives to our forensic group of the EOD [Explosives Ordnance Division] to determine if this is the signature of the Communists or some terrorist groups from central Mindanao,” he said.
On the first day of the raids in Sta. Catalina, the operatives seized firearms, ammunition, and cold cash amounting to about P18 million.
The second day yielded the IEDs and components, and a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) ammunition, among other things, that had been buried, and retrieved with the aid of a backhoe, said Valmonte.
An initial report showed that the arms cache recovered in those two days included six long firearms, 10 short firearms of different calibers, three pieces of IEDs and components, one RPG ammunition, 4,000 assorted live rounds of ammunition of various calibers, and the cash.
Three suspects were also arrested for alleged possession of illegal firearms during the search. Valmonte said the arms cache, money, and the three suspects were turned over to national government authorities in Manila. A military aircraft came to Dumaguete to transport the suspects, confiscated items, and law enforcement personnel to Manila. (Judy F. Partlow/PNA)