Moves under way to tag Teves as terrorist – DOJ
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has started the preliminary steps in designating suspended Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. as a “terrorist,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said on Thursday.
“It’s moving. We’re moving on it. We’re starting the preliminary movements. We are talking to the ones we need to talk to,” he told reporters.
Under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (Republic Act No. 11479), the Anti-Terrorism Council, which includes the justice secretary, can “designate” a person a terrorist, paving the way for a ramp of restrictive measures, including extended detention and the freezing of bank accounts.
He added that the complaints for illegal possession of firearms and explosives filed against Teves could be enough to designate him as a terrorist. “The National Bureau of Investigation will be the one recommending his designation. Designation first, proscription later,” said Remulla, who also has supervisory control of the NBI.
“Proscription” is the process of seeking a court declaration that a certain group is outlawed for being a terrorist group. He added that he doesn’t see any conflict with the DOJ’s actions despite the lack of a murder complaint against Teves.
Pressure to return
“Not really. That’s not [a] conflict at all,” said Remulla.
The justice secretary earlier said that the DOJ would seek the designation and proscription of Teves as a “terrorist” in order to pressure him to return to the country.
But Teves said he found the DOJ’s plan laughable, arguing that he does not fit into the description of a terrorist under the Anti-Terror law.
“There is nothing funny about nine people getting killed,” Remulla told reporters on Tuesday.
“Was what happened to [Negros Oriental] Gov. [Roel] Degamo funny in any way? Considering that the highest ranked local official was killed in his own home while serving his constituents by highly trained gunmen recruited for that purpose,” he added.
Teves can dispute the designation, but such a case can be a lengthy process, during which his assets will remain frozen.
The congressman, who has been tagged as the alleged mastermind behind the March 4 killing of Degamo and eight others, was out of the country on the day of the massacre and has yet to return.
Remulla said Teves could be traveling back and forth between South Korea and Cambodia.
“I think Sen. [Joel] Villanueva’s information that Teves is in Korea is reliable. But he goes back and forth to Cambodia. He has a passport; he has a visa. ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) does not require a visa,” Remulla said.
During a Senate hearing, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said his friends saw Teves in a hotel in South Korea eating at a buffet.
Testimonies at the Senate inquiry also identified several police officers in connection with the assassination.
Lt. Col. Gerard Ace Pelare, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas, said police officers who previously held key positions in Negros Oriental were ready to cooperate with the authorities.
Among them were Col. Arnel Banzon, who served as chief of the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office (PPO) from May 27 to Oct. 3, 2020, and Col. Rommel Ochave, director of the Cebu PPO and a former head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Central Visayas.