JUSTICE Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Monday said the ongoing investigation into the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and eight civilians last March 4 is pointing to Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep.Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves as one of the possible masterminds in the gruesome crime.
This, as Degamo’s widow formally asked the House of Representatives to expel the congressman, who last week was slapped by his peers with a 60-day suspension for disorderly conduct after he failed to return to work despite the lapse of his allowed leave of absence.
In an interview with reporters, Remulla said there is already evidence that would directly implicate Teves in Degamo’s killing, but these are still being validated in order to come up with a strong case against the solon.
“We will look at the facts in the best way possible.
We will see the participation of people and we will see also from what we have right now the statements given by the suspects jive with the facts that we have discovered,” Remulla said.
Remulla earlier said several of the suspects who earlier surrendered to authorities have named Teves as the alleged mastermind.
Their statements, however, would have to be validated and corroborated by other evidence before a case can be filed against the solon, according to Remulla.
“You still have to evaluate the weight of the evidence. We also have to ask questions again. We only have to make sure when we file a case it is already insurmountable. That is the case build-up. We try our best to build the best case so it would not be difficult when we go to the court,” Remulla explained.
However, Remulla said the interagency task force mandated to resolve the Degamo killing is still looking for at least two to four more personalities as possible masterminds.
When asked if these masterminds are still within reach of authorities, Remulla said “they can still be contacted and are always in social media.”
“One of them even texted me. Congressman Teves texted me,” he added.
Remulla said it would be up to the panel of prosecutors to weigh the evidence that have been gathered so far in connection to the case.
“But right now the way it is progressing, that is the direction we’re heading to,” Remulla said.
At least 10 suspects, mostly former soldiers, have surrendered to authorities and admitted either direct or vital participation in the crime.
They are now under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) pending the result of the preliminary investigation on the murder charges and other criminal charges filed against them before the DOJ.
Remulla is confident the panel of prosecutors would be able to come up with a resolution already within the week indicting the suspects.
“By Friday, at least the end of the month, we can have this filed already. Some of them before the courts, but for the rest of the suspects who surrendered, hopefully, we have charges filed by Friday,” Remulla said.
One of suspects in custody, according to Remulla had disclosed participation not only in the killing of Degamo but also in past two attempts to assassinate the governor.
“That person was involved not only in the last assassination attempt that succeeded, but in two other failed assassination attempts on Governor Degamo,” Remulla told CNN Philippines in an interview.
The DOJ secretary revealed that Degamo was the subject of an assassination plan as early as December 2022 but that the suspects failed to carry it out due to “several factors” beyond their control.
“He was already the subject of an assassination plan since last year, since December last year, but they were not able to consummate their earlier attempts due to several factors that are out of their control. They are planning to do this earlier before it was consummated on March 4,” he said.
“One thing for sure is that the third one, which succeeded, is just part of a grand plan, it’s really a plan to assassinate Governor Degamo from the very beginning,” he added.
Remulla said this was why the governor twice visited his office before he was killed.
Remulla also said those behind Degamo’s killing are likely part of a big criminal organization involved in several assassinations and illegal gambling, including e-sabong, in Negros Oriental.
He also noted that the interagency task force has been provided with a list of those killed in Negros Oriental the past six years, where Teves was also linked.
Topacio: Complete case buildup
Teves’ lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said their camp was no longer surprised the latest pronouncements of Remulla.
“This is anti-climactic, When the investigation started all the oblique references, all the innuendoes [point to] Teves,” Topacio said.
He also appealed to Remulla to avoid issuing updates on the case if the information have yet to be verified or established by evidence.
“There are statements that [begin with] ‘I think,’ ‘I am not sure,’ ‘It is possible.’ Complete the case build-up and please file it so that the prosecutors would be able to evaluate it,” Topacio said.
“In the meantime, I hope they avoid all appearances of prejudgment, prejudice and partiality ,” he added.
Widow’s plea: Expel him
Pamplona, Negros Oriental Mayor Janice Degamo is asking the House of Representatives to expel suspended Negros Oriental Rep. Teves Jr.
In a letter to the Office of the Speaker, Degamo appealed to the House to expel Teves as member of the House. The letter was received by the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, according to House Secretary General Reginald Velasco.
Velasco said the House Committee on Ethics can meet to consider the letter of Mayor Degamo.
The House of Representatives slapped Teves earlier with a 60-day suspension for disorderly behavior.
With 292 affirmative votes and without abstention, they adopted the recommendations of the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges against Teves, for acts that “constitute disorderly behavior affecting the dignity, integrity, and reputation of the House of Representatives.”
Meanwhile, the lower chamber also received a letter from Atty. Topacio, asking for the lifting of the suspension order against Teves.
“The threat that Rep. Teves conceives, may therefore be said as falling under ‘unavoidable circumstances’ which prevents his physical presence in the sessions of the House, hence, an exempting circumstance under Sec. 71, Rule 1X of its Rules,” Topacio said.
As Teves has expressed intention and his standing commitment to participate in the sessions, Topacio said “there is no refusal to discharge his duties nor disrespect the authority and dignity of the Honorable Congress.”
“It is, thus, most respectfully prayed that the said suspension be lifted and Rep. Teves be allowed to participate in the sessions and discharge his duties as member of Congress, virtually in the meantime,” he said.