Brother says family calls for his return, cites Marcos’ vow for safety
The family of suspended Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. has appealed to him to return to the Philippines and face the charges against him.
“While I cannot decide for him, we are of the opinion and we are hoping that he will really decide to come home,” said the lawmaker’s younger brother, former Negros Oriental governor Pryde Henry Teves on Monday.
“Maybe to stop all this and shed light on everything, maybe it’s about time he comes home. One way or another he would have to face all of this. And he has to come home,” he added.
The younger Teves said he is confident his brother will be safe once he returns home given the promise made by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to beef up his security.
“If it’s the President himself who guarantees his safety, I think he will be safe enough,” Pryde said.
As this developed, the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday said Rep. Teves is among those being considered as a mastermind in the killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Teves, who has sent him text messages, could be among two to three masterminds behind Degamo’s killing.
Degamo and eight others were killed while several others were injured after gunmen fired on his home in Negros Oriental on March 4 while he was distributing aid to his constituents.
Last week, Remulla said Teves, who is out of the country, reached out to him through a text message. He said he did not respond to the text as he received the message after finding out that four more suspects in the killing of Degamo had surrendered.
Teves’ legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio described Remulla’s statement as “nebulous.”
“Actually, Secretary Remulla did not say anything new. Also, the statement itself is quite nebulous. I’ll comment when there is something coherent to comment on,” Topacio said.
Topacio said earlier that there is no direct evidence linking Teves to Degamo’s murder.
Teves, who refuses to return to the country due to fears for his safety, earlier denied involvement in the killing. He also appealed for authorities for fairness and for investigators to look at all angles in the Degamo killing.
Nonetheless, Topacio earlier said Teves is ready to face the allegations of murder against him.
Some of the 11 suspects in custody said a certain “Cong Teves” ordered the hit on Degamo.
Remulla also said that items seized during their investigation, including improvised explosive devices (IEDs), were consistent with statements from the arrested suspects.
When asked if the suspects mentioned the Teves brothers when they talked about the IEDs, Remulla said there was no mention of names.
But he said he believed the safehouse the suspects stayed in was owned and controlled by the Teves family.
Remulla said Teves’s brother, Pryde, may also be implicated in the crime.
In an interview with CNN, Remulla also said that one of the suspects in the Degamo killing was also involved in two failed assassination attempts against the governor.
Remulla said the suspect was among the “major players” in the killing.
“That person was involved not only in the last assassination attempt he succeeded but in two other failed assassination attempts on Governor Degamo,” Remulla told CNN.
Remulla said Degamo was the object of an assassination plot since December 2022.
The Justice secretary said they were planning to file charges against the 11 suspects by Thursday or Friday, but said Teves would not be among the respondents.
“His being named in the case would depend on the decision of the panel of prosecutors if it is timely already to file a case against him based on the evidence we have on hand,” Remulla said.
He added, however, that there was already enough direct evidence pointing to Teves.
In a press conference, Justice department spokesperson Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano said DOJ prosecutors recommended the filing of nine counts of murder against the six individuals for the killing of Degamo, Jessie Boy-ay, Jose Marie Ramirez, Jomar Canseco, Crispin Vallega, Jerome Maquiling, Florence Quinikito, Joseph Renada, and Michael Fabugais.
He said the suspects will also be charged with 13 counts of frustrated murder and three counts of attempted murder.
Meanwhile, police said they confiscated another batch of firearms on Sunday inside the sugar mill owned by former Negros Oriental governor Pryde Henry Teves.
For three straight days, the Philippine National Police-Criminal Detection and Investigation Group (PNP-CIDG) conducted raids in the Teves compound.
The PNP-CIDG reported that a short arm with 24 live bullets, three magazines, a disassembled pistol and a shotgun with 29 bullets were seized in the operation.
More than 2,000 assorted bullets were also recovered in the area.
PNP-CIDG chief legal officer P/Col. Thomas Valmonte said that “it’s a vast area” when asked why the search took days.
The compound is 50-hectare land with more than 200 houses inside where employees of the sugar mill and relatives of Teves live.
Valmonte also said an informant has been helping the authorities locate the buried iems.
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs), guns, and components for making explosives were found in the compound since the PNP-CIDG started to implement a search warrant on Friday.
Some P18 million worth of cash was also found in a vault inside the compound.
The former governor said he was innocent and said he was willing to work with the authorities to investigate the discovered weapons.
Also on Monday, the Office of the Speaker transmitted to the House ethics committee the formal request from Degamo’s widow, Pamplona town Mayor Janice Degamo, that Teves be expelled from the chamber.
The chairman of the committee, party-list Rep. Felimon Espares, said his panel would act on the matter when Congress resumes session in May.
The House has slapped a 60-day suspension on Teves for refusing to heed its order to return to the Philippines to face murder charges filed against him.
Speaker Martin Romualdez has yet to assign a caretaker for Teves’ legislative district, Majority Leader and Zamboanga City Rep. Manuel Dalipe said.
Teves’ camp on Monday asked the House leadership to lift the suspension imposed against him.
Topacio, in a letter to the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, said the threat against his client’s life falls under “unavoidable circumstances which prevent his physical presence in the sessions of the House, hence, an exempting circumstance under Sec.71, Rule IX of its Rules.”
“A belief that one’s life is threatened does not always come with demonstrable proof. It could be by inference from circumstances that are not susceptible to tangible proof, as in this case,” Topacio said.
“Yet, everyone has a right to be cautious about the threats he perceives against his life,” he added.