Remulla assures Teves safety

‘This is just a part of a long process. This will not be resolved by public opinion’

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said lawmaker Arnolfo Teves will be secured once the Negros Oriental Representative who is linked to the murder of provincial Gov. Roel Degamo flies back home.

“He will be secured. We will not neglect him. He will be secured,” Remulla stated on Monday.

Teves, who is currently in the United States, has expressed his intention to address the allegations leveled against him regarding the Degamo slaying and murder complaints previously filed against him in connection with the killings that occurred in 2019.

However, his camp has not yet specified a date for his return, citing “security concerns.”

The travel authority issued by the House of Representatives for Teves’ US trip expired last 9 March. His colleagues in Congress have been urging him to come back and face the charges.

Following these developments, the battery of lawyers representing Teves on Monday said their client is asking for “fundamental fairness” as authorities turned to “publicized and sensationalized politics” by tagging the congressman in the assassination of Degamo.

“This is just a part of a long process. This will not be resolved by public opinion,” Teves’s lead counsel Ferdinand Topacio said.

File a case in court

Topacio challenged authorities to file a court case and not resort to “demonizing” Teves. He said that once the case is filed all the lapses of the police will vindicate their client.

He added that the tagging of Teves by the arrested suspects was pure hearsay.

“Hearsay will not stand in court. What the suspects said is that they heard from a certain Martin who acted as the middle man that the order came from Teves. Isn’t that hearsay?” Topacio said.

Atty. Toby Diokno, another of Teves’s lawyers, said, “In any criminal procedure, the parties are always presumed innocent,” as he cautioned the police and those on top of the investigation not to make premature statements.

Diokno said there were other angles the police should look at, like e-sabong and other issues being discussed on social media.

Another Teves lawyer, Edward Santiago, who was in Bayawan City to witness a police raid on his client’s property, said the service of the search warrant “did not comply with what the law says.”

He said Teves’s household staff “were very scared” when the first group of policemen in full battle gear arrived carrying “fully laden bags” and ordered them out of the house. He said he and the staff were hauled off to one area and were not allowed to see what the police were doing.

When a second group of policemen entered, Santiago said that was the only time they identified themselves as a search team. This group found the alleged firearms of the congressman.

“Notwithstanding a Supreme Court ruling that search teams serving warrants should have body cams,” Topacio said the policemen were not wearing any cameras.

Message for Romualdez

Topacio said that while the lawyers welcomed the House of Representatives’ call for a probe, he hoped Speaker Martin Romualdez would meet with him so he could relay a message from Teves.
“It’s for his (Romualdez) ears only. Just give him (Teves) a chance to be heard,” Topacio said.

As for Teves’ return to the country, the lawyers said the congressman “is torn between his duty to his people and his security, as well as that of his family.’

“My only request to Speaker Romualdez is to give Congressman Teves’s side a voice in that inquiry, in that investigation, so that we can lay out the questions that we need to be answered plus some information,” Topacio said in a streamed press conference at the Kamuning Bakery Café in Quezon City.

Romualdez said he has heard nothing from Teves since he appealed to his colleague to come home last week.

“I expect Cong. Arnie to heed my appeal and report for work as soon as possible. His stay outside the country is no longer authorized by the House of Representatives,” Romualdez said.

Teves’s lawyers said the congressman plans to return to the country but will not disclose the date owing to “security concerns.”

“In light of recent developments, where rights, not only of Congressman Teves but of others associated with him were trampled upon, his security is a big concern,” Topacio said.

As this developed, 13 more criminal charges will be filed against the suspects in the killing of Degamo according to Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr.

Murder cases

“There is one case of murder being completed for filing, nine for frustrated murder, and three for attempted murder, for a total of 13 more cases now being studied for filing,” he said.

“As of now, just to recap, we have filed eight cases for murder, six cases for frustrated murder, one for violation of RA 10591 and two for violation of RA 9516, for a total of 17 cases filed. There were a total of 27 victims — nine died, 15 were wounded quite seriously and there were attempts on the lives of three others.

“Apprehended were five persons, one of whom died while four are in custody,” Abalos told reporters after a meeting of the Metro Manila Regional Peace and Order Council held at the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority office in Pasig City.

Abalos said among those to be charged are the purported mastermind behind Degamo’s killing and eight others. He said the PNP will file the charges.

Meanwhile, PNP chief, Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., said investigators will look into the whereabouts of the five policemen who were part of Degamo’s security detail at the time of the shooting.

He said he ordered the five to report to Camp Crame to ensure their attendance at a probe that will be launched by the House of Representatives.

He said the policemen will be questioned along with Central Visayas provincial director Col. Reynaldo Lizardo at Tuesday’s congressional hearing.

“They have to explain their absence. They were personally picked by Degamo for his security detail. Not all of them report at once as they rotate but at least two or three of them should have been there,” Azurin told reporters in a press conference at Camp Crame on Monday.

He said the PNP is going ahead with its plan to dismantle all private armed groups following the recent series of attacks against politicians.

In a related development, the House Public Order and Safety Committee is set to dig into the failure of five of the slain governor’s six PNP escorts to report for duty on the day of his murder, its chairman Sta. Rosa City Rep. Dan Fernandez, said.

Topacio said they would welcome the congressional probe only if it is impartial.

Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito on Monday also questioned the absence of the police personnel assigned to Degamo.

“That is really too much of a coincidence that five of the six security personnel did not report for duty that day,” he said.

He said the only one of the six security personnel that was present during the ambush was Degamo’s cousin.

Ejercito suggested that a state of lawlessness be declared in Negros Oriental.

“Probably in Negros Oriental only because we do not want to create unnecessary panic,” he said. “The PNP and other law enforcement agencies can identify areas that can be classified as red-flag areas.”

Ejercito also supported the decision of Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa to postpone the Senate investigation into the recent spate of killings of public officials, including Degamo.

Alvin Murcia, Edjen Oliquino, Jom Garner, Jing Villamente and Glen Jacob Jose
@tribunephl_alvi @tribunephl_eao @tribunephl_jom

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