As 3 more murder suspects in Degamo case recant testimonies
Congress will decide next week what sanctions to impose on Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr., who has refused to return to the country to face murder charges, even as three suspects in the killing of Gov. Roel Degamo recanted their testimony identifying him as the mastermind behind the assassination.
The House committee on ethics is considering a call to expel Teves from the chamber for his failure to return to the country despite repeated calls for him to do so, but the panel’s recommendations must be approved by the House in plenary session Wednesday next week.
In addition, the panel, chaired by Rep. Felimon Espares of the NATCCO party-list group, may recommend to the Department of Foreign Affairs the cancellation of Teves’ official (red) passport.
Espares also revealed that his committee tried to reach Teves, urging him to come home before his suspension expired on May 22, and that Teves replied to their correspondence. Espares, however, declined to say how Teves replied.
“In accordance with our committee rules, that is confidential,” Espares said.
Espares said his committee will stop its proceedings against Teves if the congressman decides to return in the coming days.
Espares made the announcement after his committee deliberated on the continued absence of Teves in congressional proceedings amid murder and other related complaints filed against him in connection with the March 4 assassination of Degamo.
Teves’ 60-day suspension over his continued absence despite an expired travel authority expired on May 22.
“We all know this is about his continuing absence. He is outside the country on an expired travel authority. That is an unauthorized absence,” Espares told reporters.
“If he comes home, maybe the committee won’t proceed,” Espares added.
On March 22, the. House voted to suspend Teves for 60 days over his continued absence despite an expired travel authority.
Rep. Ria Vergara of Nueva Ecija, vice chair of the House committee on ethics, for her part, said “Teves’ continuous unauthorized absence is continuous disorderly conduct.”
Meanwhile, three more detained suspects recanted their testimonies in which they admitted their role in the killing of Degamo and nine others, and implicated Teves as the mastermind, joining Jhudiel R. Rivero, who took back his account earlier.
Lawyer Danny Villanueva, counsel for the four suspects, said on Tuesday his clients have executed their affidavits of recantation.
Villanueva said he represents suspects Rivero, Dahniel P. Lora, Romel A. Pattaguan and Rogelio C. Antipolo Jr.
He declined, however, to show journalists copies of their affidaits before they are submitted to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
In the case of Rivero, his counter-affidavit submitted to the DOJ recanted an affidavit in which he admitted his participation in the Pamplona killings, saying he was forced by the police to implicate Teves.
Villanueva said the affidavits of recantations were supposed to be attached to the counter-affidavit of Rivero.
“However, the panel of state prosecutors required us to submit the sworn statements executed by the PNP (Philippine National Police) of Negros Oriental as well as those allegedly executed by our clients before the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation),” he said.
During the preliminary investigation on Monday, May 22, Villanueva recalled that he argued that it should be the panel which should provide the copies of the sworn statements since these are being used against his four clients.
Explaining Rivero’s affidavit of recantation, Villanueva said: “It is not true that he changed his statements because his admission that he was part of the group did not come from him. It is not true that he is linking other people in the crime including Mr. Teves,” he added.
The NBI has filed before the DOJ 10 murder, 14 frustrated murder, and four attempted murder complaints against Teves. The DOJ has not acted on the complaints.
Teves, who opted to stay abroad despite the expiration of his official travel last March 9, has denied the allegations against him.
The Philippine National Police brushed off Rivero’s claims that he was tortured and forced to implicate Teves.
“While self-serving motives can influence testimonial evidence, our reliance on objective facts and forensic findings provides an unassailable foundation,” PNP said in a statement.
“We place paramount importance on ensuring that justice is served, and we will not allow any distractions or attempts to undermine the investigation’s integrity,” it added.
Rivero on Monday, said that he was threatened to point to Teves as the mastermind behind the attack on Degamo that resulted in the death of the governor and nine others.
Three other suspects followed suit.
The PNP, however, assured the public that the recantations will not affect the development in the case and the national force remained committed to upholding human rights.
“The pursuit of justice, coupled with the protection of human rights, will remain our top priority, and we will leave no stone unturned in our quest for truth and accountability,” said PNP.
“As Degamo’s multiple murder case progresses, it is crucial to emphasize the unwavering commitment of the PNP to upholding human rights. We firmly believe that protecting and promoting human rights are fundamental principles that must be maintained in all our operations,” the statement added.
The national police believed that the country’s judicial system will be competent and effective enough to uphold the principles of justice.
The PNP’s investigation was also aided by the National Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Also on Tuesday, Teves’ lawyer Ferdinand Topacio filed a motion to dismiss the charges against his client for three murders in 2019.
“What we are pointing out is there is only one person saying congressman Teves is behind the alleged murders in the evidence submitted,” Topacio said.
A confession only binds the confessor, and that it is not believable if there is no corroborating evidence.
“The easiest thing to do in the world is to point fingers (at someone)… but without corroboration, it is unbelievable,” he said.
He said he hoped the prosecutors would not be influenced by the repeated pronouncements by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla that Teves was guilty.
“I still have faith [that] the DOJ is made up of prosecutors who are career officers and I hope that they will prove faithful to their duty to dispense justice without fear or favor,” he said.
He warned that the lone witness against Teves could be charged for admitting to being the lookout in killings and being the driver.
In the complaint filed March 7, 2023, Teves was charged with murder for the deaths of Negros Oriental provincial board member and former agent of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Miguel L. Dungog, Lester P. Bato, and Pacito R. Libron.
In his motion, Teves said that “the herein subject complaint for murder consisting of three charges be dismissed for utter lack of evidence to support a finding of probable cause.”
Teves’ motion to dismiss said the charges against him stand on the strength of the sworn statement of Gemuel Hobro Anlap, a confessed conspirator in the alleged killings, who in his two extra-judicial confessions dated March 4 and 12, casually stated that each of these murders were ordered and funded by Teves.