Degamo lawyer: Former DOJ exec in bribery try
A former Department of Justice (DOJ) official has purportedly tried to bribe detained witnesses to stop cooperating with authorities investigating the killings of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and nine others in March.
Lawyer Levito Baligod, counsel for the Degamo family, did not identify the former official but claimed that the official did so through guards at the detention center of the National Bureau of Investigation.
“A certain high-ranking official of the DOJ before, with the rank of [undersecretary], is working with some jail guards at the NBI detention facility to offer money to the detainees so that they won’t cooperate,” he said in a television interview.
Baligod asked Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos to have the witnesses transferred from the NBI custodial center in Manila to the Philippine National Police facility in Quezon City to “insulate them from the people corrupted or bribed by this former DOJ official.”
Baligod claimed that “no less than four detainees” revealed the bribery attempt at a preliminary investigation hearing at the DOJ last month.
When they rejected the bribe, the witnesses claimed jail guards gave them a hard time and later placed them in the same cell as Martin Miranda, a longtime bodyguard of suspended Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. and one of the respondents in the case.
Remulla said investigations tagged Teves as the “main mastermind” in the March 4 killings of Degamo and his supporters.
Miranda, on the other hand, was allegedly the “enforcer” who picked 11 former Army soldiers as hit men, helped plan and provide logistical support for the assassination. The witnesses claimed Miranda was now “bullying” them.
Last month, former Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo claimed to be representing Miranda, although all 11 respondents denied, at that time, engaging his services and had lawyers from the Public Attorneys Office.
On Monday, Remulla bared that “six to seven” suspects in the Degamo case were now being represented by private lawyers and might recant the statements in their extrajudicial confessions.
“There are no recantations yet, but we expect that to happen. It’s a tactic used by people who want to destroy their previous statements, citing several excuses, but we expect these statements to hold,” Remulla said.
Baligod agreed with Remulla and expressed confidence that the suspects would be indicted and that the case would proceed to trial.
“No effect at all. In fact, even if the 11 detained persons at the NBI recant, these would not affect the prosecution,” Baligod said, adding he had two more witnesses to present in court.
As lawyer of the victims’ families, Baligod will serve as the private prosecutor in support of the state prosecutors who will be assigned to the case.
Baligod argued that they have a good case against Teves, citing the so-called “Godfather doctrine”—after the 1969 crime novel by American author Mario Puzo and later adapted to become a hit film.
He contended that a godfather or crime group leader may be prosecuted based on at least three circumstantial evidence alone, a principle adopted in US jurisprudence.
On May 17, the NBI filed multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder before the National Prosecution Service against Teves, whose location remained unknown at press time.
Teves is not required to appear in the ongoing preliminary investigation, but he has to personally appear during arraignment because flight is prima facie evidence of guilt. If he does not appear in court, he can be tried in absentia.