Degamo kin to Teves: Come home, face charges
DUMAGUETE CITY, Negros Oriental, Phillippines — “Face the accusations.”
The family of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo made this appeal to his political rival, Rep. Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr., who has been implicated in the March 4 murder of the governor and eight others.
Nyrth Christian Degamo, the governor’s nephew and a board member in the province’s second district, said it would be better for Teves, who is reportedly in the United States, to respond to the allegations instead of trying to escape prosecution by remaining out of the country.
“I’m not saying that he (Teves) was really the mastermind. All we want is for him to answer the accusations by the arrested suspects,” he said.
The Philippine National Police has also guaranteed the protection of Teves and his family, even as it investigates his alleged role in the assassination of his longtime political nemesis.
“We want to assure the families and the loved ones of Congressman Teves that the PNP and other government forces are more than willing to provide security to him, and he doesn’t need to make a request anymore,” spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo told a press conference on Saturday.
According to Fajardo, PNP deputy chief for operations Maj. Gen. Jonnel Estomo has volunteered to provide Teves with a security detail.
There is no information yet on when Teves will return home after saying in a video post that he was on medical treatment in the United States. But Fajardo said the PNP was coordinating with people close to the lawmaker to determine his whereabouts.
The travel clearance issued by the House of Representatives for Teves’ “personal trip” lapsed on March 9.
Teves’ chief of staff sought to have his leave extended until April 9, but the House secretary general declined the request, while Speaker Martin Romualdez urged him to come home.
At least two suspects in the Degamo killing had named Teves as one of the alleged masterminds, according to police.
Four of the alleged gunmen — Joric Labrador, Joven Javier, Benjie Rodriguez, and Osmundo Rivero, all former Army soldiers — were arrested and charged with multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder, and illegal possession of firearms.
Labrador and Rodriguez told investigators a certain “Cong Teves” had ordered the murder.
Teves was named a respondent in a separate murder complaint filed by the police in connection with the 2019 killings of at least three people, including former Negros Oriental board member Miguel Dungog, an ally of Degamo.
The PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) accused Teves and five others of orchestrating the killings that took place in various parts of Negros Oriental.
On Friday, the CIDG raided two houses owned by Teves in Basay town and another one in Bayawan City and seized three hand grenades, 10 short firearms, six rifles, 465 assorted live ammunition, 194 assorted empty shells, and 22 assorted magazines.
Nyrth said the Degamo family was happy with the support they received after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to assist in the capture of about 10 remaining suspects.
“We trust our country’s justice system. There should be no room for these kinds of crimes in this country. If we won’t be able to secure one, what are we saying to the next generation?” he said.
“If we get the right perpetrators and the mastermind, it won’t only be our family who will be happy but also the families of the eight other individuals who were killed,” Nyrth added.
Marcos has created an interagency special task force chaired by Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos to expedite the resolution of the murder case.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and acting Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. were named its vice chairs.
“The Special Task Force Degamo aims to harmonize and to ensure that all our law enforcement agencies move as one. The intention of the president is a whole-of-government approach to make sure we can resolve the case as soonest time possible,” Fajardo said on Saturday.
Fajardo said the task force believed the case would be solved soon.
“We are just finalizing some of the evidence at hand, including the material revelation and the forensic evidence,” she added.
‘Means and intention’
As rivals in politics, Teves had challenged Degamo to a fistfight in social media posts.
In his March 6 statement, Teves said what happened to Degamo was his worst fear because he knew he would be blamed for it.
“If I had the means and intention to do this, I would have done this before the elections,” he said.
Degamo served as governor of Negros Oriental province from 2011 to June 2022, and started a new term in October after the victory of Teves’ older brother, Pryde Henry Teves, against him in the May 2022 elections was nullified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The votes for a nuisance candidate who used Degamo’s surname were annulled in the late governor’s favor, and Pryde Henry, who had served as governor of Negros Oriental for four months, was forced to step down on Oct. 11, 2022, paving the way for Degamo’s assumption of office.
Degamo’s proclamation was affirmed in February by the Supreme Court, which said it found no grave abuse of discretion in the Comelec’s actions.