PNP: Gov’t pressing Teves to return, face charges
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police said government agencies are working together to persuade Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. to come home and face criminal complaints as well as allegations of his involvement in the assassination of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo.
Teves, who flew to the United States for a medical procedure last month, has not returned to the country, as he claimed that there was a “very grave security threat” to his life and family.
But House Speaker Martin Romualdez has denied his request for a two-month leave after his travel authority expired on March 9.
“I strongly urge Cong. Arnie to reconsider his decision not to return. It does not sit well for a House member to flee the country rather than avail himself of all the legal remedies available to him,” Romualdez explained.
In a press briefing on Saturday, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo reiterated the government’s assurances that Teves and his family would be provided security to address his safety concerns.
“Suffice it to say, all government agencies are working together to convince Cong. Teves to come home and face the complaints against him,” she said.
“We reiterate that we are ready to provide security for him and his family when he flies back home,” Fajardo added.
But she also pointed out that the camp of Teves has yet to approach the PNP.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla had earlier said the congressman was “somewhere in Southeast Asia,” adding that his refusal to come back could be construed as “an indication of guilt.”
Fajardo said she was “not at liberty to reveal information” on the whereabouts of Teves following reports alleging the lawmaker was already in Cambodia.
The Inquirer tried to reach out to Teves’ lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, but did not get any response.
Aside from the March 4 assassination of Degamo, Teves is facing a host of other charges.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has dismissed one of the cases of illegal possession of firearms against him, but it made clear that there were still a total of seven separate cases against the legislator.
According to a resolution for dismissal dated March 13, the firearms case was junked because “the complaint against him is not a proper subject for inquest since he was not arrested during the implementation of the search.”
“Considering there is not enough evidence to proceed to a regular preliminary investigation with regard to him, the complaint against respondent Teves is dismissed,” the resolution read.
Fajardo said “while we may consider it as a minor setback, the other cases will not be affected.”
“The CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) believes they have strong evidence to prove the involvement of the accused,” she said, adding that the agency will consider a motion for reconsideration once it receives a copy of the DOJ resolution.
The case was in connection with a raid conducted on March 10 by Patrolmen Joel Antiquera, Park Villarez, and Ian Macadangdang on three properties owned by Teves in Negros Oriental.
A certain Roland Aguisanda Pablio — whom the seized guns were licensed to — was also listed as a respondent.
“It goes to show that we do not choose between cases despite how thin they are, especially in this case where there really was no conspiracy to possess firearms. The DOJ really dismisses that because there really is no basis [for] that,” Justice Undersecretary Mico Clavano said.
But he also clarified that while one complaint was dismissed, it did not mean his “record is already clear.”
Teves still faces complaints of violations of Republic Act (RA) No. 10591, or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act, and RA 9516, the law on explosives.
On March 15, the CIDG filed charges against Teves and his two sons following the discovery of unlicensed firearms and explosives in his houses in Negros.
The CIDG had also filed charges of multiple murder against Teves and five others over three killings in 2019, including the murder of former Negros Oriental Board Member Miguel Dungog.
Degamo was shot and killed by a group of gunmen while he was meeting with his constituents at his home in Pamplona town. Eight others were killed in the attack.
Four suspects—Joric Labrador, Joven Javier, Benjie Rodriguez and Osmundo Rivero—were later arrested and charged, while a fifth suspect was shot dead after allegedly engaging law enforcers.
The four suspects, all of them former soldiers, executed extrajudicial confessions, saying a certain “Cong Teves” ordered the murder of Degamo.
A longtime rival of the governor, Teves posted a video statement on his Facebook account, denying any involvement in the murder, although the lawmaker, on several occasions, had challenged Degamo to a fistfight through social media posts.
Degamo was finally laid to rest last week in his hometown of Siaton in Negros Oriental. He was buried beside his parents and sister in the family compound.
“Roel died serving his people. He was so brave to face evil in our province. He always chose peace and yet violence ended his life,” said Degamo’s widow Janice, also the mayor of Pamplona town, during the funeral.