(PNA photo by Joey Razon)

MANILA – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin "Benhur" Abalos Jr. on Wednesday said five more suspects implicated in the March 4 attack that resulted in the death of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and eight others are now under the custody of authorities.

"The Special Task Force Degamo would like to announce that five more suspects who have a direct participation in this incident are now under the custody of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). And from the custody of the AFP, kanina po ay nilipat na po ito sa (they were earlier transferred to the) NBI (National Bureau of Investigations)," he said in a press conference at the Office of Civil Defense building in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

This development came after the surrender of another suspect on March 20 who was also turned over to the NBI.

Abalos said a total of 10 suspects involved in the killing of the governor are now under government custody.

This includes the four suspects arrested just hours after the commission of the crime.

Abalos also noted that these suspects "have voluntarily offered relevant testimonies that will help the task force build a strong case against the perpetrators as well as the intermediaries and mastermind."

He added that the investigation and legal team under Special Task Force Degamo is now in the process of completing the documentation of the initial statements taken by the investigators from the suspects presently under custody.

"Our collaboration the past few weeks have paved the way to the surrender of the individuals responsible for the murder of Degamo and others," the DILG chief said.

At present, Abalos said joint military tracker teams remain focused in pursuing leads, including information provided by the suspects under custody.

The DILG chief also noted that the suspects have provided them with a lot of information regarding the case.

With this development, Abalos urged the remaining suspects to voluntarily surrender as a lot of their companions had already given themselves up.

"We would like (to tell) those who have knowledge on the circumstances of the crime and location of the remaining suspects to come out and cooperate with government authorities so that justice can be served to the victims of this gruesome crime," he added.

Commitment to justice

Meanwhile, Department of National Defense (DND) chief Carlito Galvez Jr. who was also present in the media briefing, assured Degamo's widow, Pamplona, Negros Oriental Mayor Janice Degamo, that the government is sparing no effort in going after the culprits behind the attack.

"Maam Janice, as we have promised to you, the President, that we will give justice and noong pumunta po kami sa inyo na sinabi po namin na (when we visited you and told you), there is always reckoning and the reckoning is today. and now the (day of) reckoning, God is good," he said.

Galvez also commended the AFP under Gen. Andres Centino for their efforts in tracking and arresting the suspects.

Likewise, he also praised the Philippine National Police (PNP) and NBI for their cooperation and assistance in helping resolve the case.

Meanwhile, PNP chief, Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., said they will continue to conduct joint patrols with the AFP.

He added that they will also continue to conduct the threat assessment of elected officials at the local level.

"And we continue to provide additional security should there be a need for our local officials for additional security," Azurin said. (with Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)