DUMAGUETE CITY — As part of his regular schedule, Reynaldo “Butch” Tepace, a cameraman for a local cable television station, would meet with Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo every Saturday in the town of Pamplona for their recording of a weekly show of the governor.
Last March 4 was one such day.
Arriving at the governor’s residential compound in Sitio Nuebe, Barangay San Isidro in Pamplona, Tepace saw the usual crowd that would flock to the compound, usually to seek assistance or advice.
He parked his motorcycle across the street, some 15 meters away from the compound’s gate. While waiting for his reporter, who was on their way in another vehicle, Tepace lit a cigarette and enjoyed watching the fog that surrounded the governor’s home which, he said, added to the beautiful scenery in the mountain town of Pamplona.
After a few minutes, he saw three vehicles arrive – a black Montero, a Pajero, and what looked like a green pick-up truck.
Two of them had their blinkers on, the lights typically used by police vehicles.
As the cars stopped by the governor’s gate, several people in military uniform, all armed with high-powered assault rifles, got off the vehicle.
“They must be military personnel paying a courtesy visit,” Tepace told himself. He planned to interview them once he got inside the compound.
The armed men went to the gate, and asked the guard: “Naa si Gov? (Is the governor around?)” The gate then opened, and several of them went inside, while some stayed nearby or in their vehicles.
All of a sudden, the sound of gunfire rang out inside the compound. He could hear people screaming in terror.
“Nilupad akong kalag! (My soul flew out my body!),” he told the Inquirer.
Tepace suddenly found himself inside a drainage canal near where he parked his motorcycle.
“I had no idea how I ended up in that two-feet-deep canal,” he said.
Although his head was still sticking out, he stayed in the canal, trembling while the gunfire was going on.
He said the next few moments felt like an eternity. Then the shooting stopped.
Footage of a closed-circuit television from the scene eventually showed that the gunmen’s casual arrival, the firing, and their systematic departure all took place in less than a minute.
Tepace said he saw the vehicles leaving in haste after the gunmen shot a volley of fire into the air while the sound of crying and screaming could be heard from inside the compound.
He then decided to continue hiding in the canal a little longer, uncertain if it was the better thing to do.
Tepace, who is working for Fil Products Service Television, said he wanted to get up and start capturing the scene on video but his body started to feel so weak, he could hardly move his arms and legs.
His camera was also broken into pieces after it fell into the canal with him.
He saw vehicles leaving the Degamo compound carrying the injured to the hospital, but he remained in his hiding place.
After about 15 minutes, which again seemed like forever, he heard the unmistakable siren of a police car.
Tepace looked and saw the words “Pamplona Police” and that was when he came out.
He then started taking videos of the crime scene, before realizing that his hands and knees were swollen from jumping into the canal.
But at least, he consoled himself, saying he just felt grateful that he was alive.
“Now my friends tell me that smoking doesn’t kill—that day, it saved my life.”
READ: Negros Oriental governor shot dead inside his house
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