The brutal murder showing the risk of Philippine politics
By Federico Segarra
Manila, 18 (EFE).- The recent assassination of a Philippine governor after an assault in broad daylight, in which eight other people died, has once again recalled the violence against politicians in one of the most dangerous countries in the world to practice this profession.
Roel Degamo, governor of the province of Negros Oriental is the first governor assassinated since 2007 in the Philippines, but it is already the 17th politician to die in the country so far in 2023.
His murder has shocked the country due to its violence and wide dissemination, appearing in a video published by various local media and social media that, recorded by security cameras, reflects what happened on Mar. 4.
At that time, Degamo was celebrating a charity day at his residence in the city of Pamplona, on the island of Negros, a day when it later seemed no coincidence that five of the six members of his security team did not show up to work.
At about 9:30am, shortly after the start of the event, surveillance cameras recorded how a group of people armed with assault equipment entered through the door of the residence, and one of them talked with a member of the governor’s entourage.
Suddenly, the armed man fired several shots at Degamo’s colleague, while the others riddled the citizens who were waiting their turn to see the governor, who was shot dead along with 8 other people. His aggressors fled after the scene in several cars.
The event shocked the public, in a country with one of the highest levels of violence against the political class in the world, even higher than those of the nations with the most murders in general, such as Mexico, Colombia, South Africa or Brazil, according to data collected by Frankfurt University Professor Peter Kreuzer.
“The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to do politics,” says Kreuzer to EFE, who published in 2021 an investigation – one of the most detailed that exists in this area – on violence against politicians in the country, where in In the past five years, an average of 120 politicians a year were assassinated.
A violence highly targeted at politicians that is out of tune with the general indices: while in Mexico or Colombia the general homicide rate was higher than 25 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2021, the Philippines registered 4.4 murders per 100,000, according to the latest available World Bank data.
However, that same year, 14 more politicians died violently in the Philippines, of 110 million inhabitants, than in Mexico of 126 million, according to data from Kreuzer and the Mexican consultancy Ettelekt.
Two of the main suspects in Degamo’s murder are the former governor of Negros Oriental Henry Teves and his brother Arnolfo Teves – accused by the prosecution of being behind other murders of politicians – after two of those detained during the investigation claimed to have been paid by one of the brothers to kill the governor.
Degamo’s murder is not the only recent one: two weeks earlier, on Feb. 19, the deputy mayor of Aparri, in Cagayan (north of the island of Luzon, where Manila is), was murdered along with four other people while traveling to the capital with a delegation of his team.
Again, the suspects are also political rivals competing for the same business, according to police.
“Struggles for power, for local businesses, for money and influence are behind the vast majority of assassinations against politicians,” a Filipino academic who prefers to remain anonymous told EFE.
The Philippines, where 80 percent of current governors belong to a political dynasty, is one of the countries in the world where clans perpetuate themselves in power more easily, accumulating great political and economic power for decades, according to a last year’s study by Ronald Mendoza, dean of Ateneo de Manila University.
“In the Philippines, feudalism reigns. Political dynasties do not want to lose power,” the academic said, adding that “when a member of a clan is killed, the retaliation is usually that the rest of the clan is eliminated entirely if possible.”
A violence between clans often related to each other that evokes mafia networks and undermines the already deteriorated democratic fabric of the Philippines in recent years. EFE