Teves camp condemns ‘terrorist’ tag: A weaponization of anti-terror law
(Updated to fix a misattributed quote in the story’s latter parts)
MANILA, Philippines — The camp of Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. has denounced the terrorist tag on the congressman, describing the government’s resolution as a mere weaponization of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
Nevertheless, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, legal counsel of Teves, said their camp was unmoved.
Topacio also said the resolution of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) came as “no surprise.”
He accused the government of engaging in an “obsessive attempt” to pin the congressman for the killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and others.
The ATC issued Resolution No. 63 on July 26, designating Teves, his brother Pryde Henry Teves, and 11 others for alleged involvement in the assassination of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and other political killings in the province. The document was only made public on Tuesday, August 1.
“This latest act on the part of the government against our client, Rep. Arnolfo Teves, comes as no surprise,” Topacio said in a statement Tuesday.
He said since Day One of the Degamo killing, the government has mobilized all the resources to tag Teves as the mastermind without investigation and to launch illegal searches on his properties.
Topacio said the government was “laying siege to [Teves’] powers and prerogatives as member of the House, embarking on a massive media campaign to discredit [the lawmaker] and prejudice the minds of the public against him, among others – all in an obsessive attempt to blame him for a crime at the expense of his Constitutional rights.”
Topacio argued that the ATC weaponized the ATA “by using it for the purpose for which it was not designed.”
He also claimed that government agencies had been slopped with “eggs on their faces” after several witnesses against Rep. Teves recanted.
Topacio said the “Rule of Law” took a beating because of the ATC’s resolution. It should serve as a “shocking reminder” to the public that no one is safe if they become a government target.
“It is thus a sad day for the Rule of Law in this country and a shocking reminder that even under a constitutional and republican regime, the return to a government of men and not of laws can always ensue, especially for those targeted for destruction by the present dispensation,” Teves’ lawyer said.
“This development should send shivers down the spine of every citizen, for the liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected,” he added.
Henry Teves to appeal resolution
Meanwhile, Pryde Henry Teves said in an interview with CNN’s The Source that he is considering filing an appeal against his “terrorist” label.
“My lawyer called this morning, they are studying the law, and they’ll see how we can appeal [the resolution],” he said.
“I told them I have to make a living, may isa pa akong student (I still have one kid who’s a student). I still have my youngest na kailangan ko pa pag-aralin (that I need to send to school),” he added.
He also said he was shocked that he was designated as a terrorist by the government body, asserting that he was always a “law-abiding person” and had never faced any charges regarding political killings.
When asked if he had already spoken to his brother Arnolfo, the former Negros Oriental governor said: “A few days back.”
“Kinamusta ko siya (I asked him how he is). He was trying to find communication with [government] friends of his, he is asking for help para masabihan sila na mag-usap (so they could talk),” he said.
The two Teves brothers are linked to the so-called Pamplona Massacre, or the murder of Degamo and eight others in Negros Oriental on March 4.
Rep. Teves, tagged as the mastermind in Degamo’s killing, is still mum about his whereabouts as the government tries to apprehend him.