Firearms, ammo also buried in sugar firm site; Terrorism charges mulled
Police on Sunday dug up various firearms, ammunition, and suspected improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the compound of the sugar mill owned by former Negros Oriental Governor Pryde Henry Teves, the brother of suspended Rep. Arnolfo Teves.
This came a day after the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) seized P18 million in cash, multiple firearms, and nearly 10,000 rounds of live ammunition from the HDJ Bayawan Agri-Venture Corp. Tolong compound in Bayawan City.
Three security personnel allegedly linked to Pryde Teves were also arrested following the raid. PNP-CIDG chief legal officer Col. Thomas Valmonte identified them as members of the former governor’s security detail.
Loose firearms were allegedly recovered from the three suspects, Valmonte said.
Following a tip from an informant, CIDG operatives led by Police Brig. Gen. Romeo Caramat Jr. unearthed the items with the use of a backhoe inside the HDJ Tolong Compound in Barangay Caranoche, Sta. Catalina town.
The CIDG officials said the seized explosives were similar to what the New People’s Army (NPA) and other armed groups in Mindanao use in their attacks.
Asked if the recovered firearms had been used in the March 4 killingof Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo — of which a certain “CongTeves” is allegedly the mastermind — Valmonte said they have yet to put the weapons under ballistic and laboratory tests.
Charges of illegal possession of firearms would be filed against the suspects before the Department of Justice headquarters in Manila, he added.
Valmonte also said the CIDG was now looking at an “intention ofterrorism” with the recovery of some explosives.
Pryde Teves maintained his innocence over the seized items, notingthat there are at least 200 houses within the compound where employees and relatives are residing. He said he will order an internalinvestigation within the sugar mill corporation, of which he is president.
“I will have to make my pencil-pushing and I will order an investigation on the records on who went inside, who went outside,” he added.
Degamo unseated Teves in a recount of the May 2022 gubernatorial race, while Rep. Arnie Teves was earlier implicated in the governor’s murder, although he had previously denied involvement in the crime.
But Valmonte reiterated that the police search on the former governor’s property had nothing to with the Degamo slay case and was only part of their “Oplan Paglalansag Omega,” the CIDG’s campaign against illegally possessed firearms and explosives.
Caramat said the area searched was near the back portion of a firing range owned by Henry Teves.
The recovery effort collected rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) ammunition without a serial number and marking, one caliber.45 pistol, three improvised explosive devices (IEDs), black powder, various live ammunition, assorted spent ammo cartridges and slugs, and components used in the making of IEDs.
Workers of HDJ Bayawan, local barangay officials, and Pryde Teves’legal counsel, James Miraflor, were present during the recovery operation conducted by PNP-CIDG.
The operation began last Friday as CIDG implemented a search warrant on the compound for a possible violation of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.
The PNP-CIDG team initially confiscated over P18 million in cash, numerous high-caliber firearms, and more than 9,000 rounds of assorted live ammunition.
The excavation unit was instructed to be on alert for the possibilityof more hidden IEDs in the search area, which could pose a threat to their lives, Caramat said.
“It’s a vast area,” Valmonte told reporters when asked why the search has taken days.
“The explosives, actually, when you possess it, you are intending touse it, definitely, because it is assembled, and the cost of buying explosive powder is no joke, so we are looking into angle of acts of terrorism here,” he said.
Pryde Teves on Saturday said he is willing to cooperate with authorities after police recovered firearms and ammunition following a raid on a sugar mill owned by the company he heads.
“Yes, I am the President of the Corp. [HDJ Bayawan Agri-Venture]. The search is not yet done. Let’s wait for it to be concluded so I can also check with our records on who owns what and how it came to be,” he told CNN Philippines in a text message on Friday while the raid was in progress.
“I will definitely cooperate with the authorities to shed light on the matter,” he added. “I reached out to the DOJ, they need me to be invited to answer some questions so they can put it together. I am very willing also, I have no problem with it.”