Suspended Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. on Wednesday denied any involvement in the recent recantation of testimonies of suspects in the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo.
Teves, who is the suspected mastermind of the Degamo assassination, said in a radio interview: “Again… I don’t have [any involvement in such]. I didn’t [do] anything [wrong]. Anything legal, just refer to my lawyer, please.”
The lawmaker maintained his innocence, adding: “How can I be involved in that when I am far? I’m not updated with the news. Let’s stick with the truth.”
Teves was responding to Osmundo Rivero’s recantation of testimony and denied knowledge of the governor’s assassination.
Rivero was one of the suspects in the killing. He also denied knowing Teves and the solon’s former bodyguard Marvin Miranda, another alleged mastermind.
This developed as the Department of Justice on Wednesday said Rivero should present evidence to prove he was forced and tortured to admit his participation in the slaying of Degamo and nine others and the involvement of Teves in the murders on March 4, 2023.
Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon stressed the DOJ’s panel of prosecutors has received the affidavit of recantation of Rivero.
“The matter of having to prove it is now with Rivero because it does not follow that just because he recanted what he is saying now is the absolute truth,” Fadullon said.
Besides Rivero, three other detained suspects in the March 4 killings — Dahniel P. Lora, Romel A. Pattaguan, and Rogelio C. Antipolo Jr. – have also retracted their supposed testimonies given after their arrest last March 5.
Copies of their affidavits of recantation were not available.
Teves reiterated there are threats to his life, thus giving him a reason not to return home. He also refused to comment on his reported application for political asylum in Timor-Leste.
“I’ll keep that to myself. I don’t need to make things public all the time,” he said.
On Rivero’s recantation, Fadullon said: “If it is true, then anybody who may have been responsible for it, if proven to be correct, may be held responsible or may be held accountable.”
“However, if for example, it turns out these allegations cannot be supported, something which cannot be backed up by evidence, then the one who makes the recantation should likewise face the full force of the law,” he added.
“It is incumbent upon the person to now present proofs of the facts he is now alleging in his affidavit of recantation,” Fadullon added.
On the lament of Danny Villanueva, the lawyer of the four suspects, that the DOJ panel of prosecutors required the submission of documents to support the affidavits of recantation, Fadullon said: “I think it is only correct for the panel to require the submission of documents to support whatever allegations are contained in the affidavit of recantation.”
Since Rivero alleged he got tortured, Fadullon said the detainee should show, for example, “medico-legal reports, affidavits of examinations by doctors and probably record of the injuries and any complaint that he may have filed as a consequence thereof is something will have to be submitted if only to justify or if only to lend credence or support to the contents of his affidavit of recantation.”
After his arrest in Negros Oriental last March, Rivero and his co-suspects were turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) last March 7.
Fadullon said that Rivero, immediately on the day of his arrival at the NBI, was “subjected to medical examination as a standard operating procedure in receiving detainees and complaint would have been raised already there.”
“There were lawyers who assisted him from the Public Attorney’s Office during the taking of his statements and right off they were given the opportunity to talk and there would have been the opportunity for him to ask for examination if he felt that the first one was something that was questionable,” he said.
The DOJ official said the participation of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) could have been raised “to check if there is any proof of torture that was committed.”
“All these are being brought forward only now practically a month and a half after they were brought to Manila,” he said.
But the Justice official expressed the belief that the more truthful statements were the first ones done by Rivero.
“So, the closer the statement is to the time when the incident actually happened, closest to March 4, it is something that is fresh in the memory of a witness and therefore it something that should be given credence,” he explained.
On the filing of criminal complaints for 10 murder, 14 frustrated murder, and four attempted murder charges against Teves, Fadullon said: “We already finished the evaluation.”
“The records have already been and will be forwarded, if I am not mistaken, by this morning (Wednesday, May 24) to the panel that would conduct the investigation on the new cases that were filed by the National Bureau of Investigation,” he added, The DOJ’s panel of prosecutors is expected to subpoena Teves and his co-respondents to file their counter-affidavits.
Teves has been abroad even after the expiration of his travel authority last March 9. He cited “security reasons” for not returning to the country. He has denied allegations against him in the Degamo killing. With Rey E. Requejo