BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Netizens have been speculating about an “overkill” in the government’s response to sending in additional soldiers to help in the capture of four suspected killers of former Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo who are still fleeing authorities more than a week after the broad daylight attack on his residential compound in Pamplona town that left him and eight others dead and 16 others wounded.
To Army Major Cenon Pancito III, while there are only four suspected killers still fleeing authorities after the 4 March 2023 bloodbath, their capabilities based on the narration of the four ex-soldiers captured by lawmen hours after the slay indicate the need for a superior force and elite troops to capture them.
Pancito told DNX it is not only their firepower, estimated to be several high powered rifles, that planners are looking at but their skills.
“We are seriously looking at their skills because they, too, are skilled,” he said but did not give additional details about these suspects.
Pancito did not confirm if the four other suspects at large, which includes the “leader” of the band, are also former Scout Ranger troopers or were trained by the Light Reaction Regiment that started as a Light Reaction Company.
Pancito is now spokesman of the Special Joint Task Force Negros, an inter-agency body formed on orders of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr tasked with heading government efforts to put an end to lawlessness and impunity in Negros Oriental and the entire island.
He used to be based in Panay island as chief spokesman and public affairs chief of the Army Third Infantry Division headquartered in Jamindan, Capiz province.
But why the use of so many soldiers, at least 3,000 so far under two Army brigades, and a company of the Philippine Delta Force: the Light Reaction Regiment?
The “skills” of the four killers being hunted might be similar to or more developed than that of the Rangers, one of the units tapped to provide the core of soldiers for the Light Reaction Company when it was being formed by the turn of the century.
Pancito said the skills of the suspected killers require soldiers of similar skillsets to avoid casualties or fatalities on the government side.
This explains why around 50 operators of the Light Reaction Regiment, said to be the Philippine version of the United States’ Delta Force have been brought in to deliver the final assault.
The regular Army soldiers will become the “fixing force” in military jargon who will identify the location of the suspects, surround and flush them out – the anvil part – before the LRR unit will be brought down on them like a hammer and do an “envelopment” to either kill or capture them.
While he did not indicate the skills of the fleeing killers, the other four now in government custody were reported to be former Rangers, all discharged dishonorably from the sevice for various offenses including unofficial absences and illicit drug use.
Rangers and the LRC are among the units under the Special Operations Command of the Armed Forces with the LRC designated as the premier counterterrorist unit of the Army.
They are also called Tier One units for being involved in “direct action” missions or the ones doing riskier jobs like hostage rescue, recovery of fellow soldiers, and elimination and/or capture of terrorists or targets of high value.
The LRC, now officially designated as the Light Reaction Regiment or LRR, is the only unit that has trained with and has been outfitted by the United States Army Special Forces.