Teves assets frozen on being tagged a terrorist
MANILA, Philippines — The government has branded Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. and his brother Pryde Henry as terrorists for their alleged roles in a series of “killings and harassment” in their province that culminated in the death of their political rival, Gov. Roel Degamo, in March.
As a result, the assets of the Teves siblings were frozen in compliance with the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, according to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
Under its Resolution No. 43 dated July 26 but made public on Tuesday, the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) declared the two brothers and 11 other people members of the so-called Teves Terrorist Group, most of whom had been implicated in the brazen attack that killed the governor and nine others in the latter’s residential compound in Pamplona town on March 4.
“The numerous killings and harassment in Negros Oriental which culminated in the assassination of Governor Degamo must not be taken as isolated and random incidents of violence,” the council said in the resolution signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin.
“These killings and harassment [were] meticulously and deliberately planned and executed for the purpose of intimidating the residents of Negros Oriental as well as to create an atmosphere or spread a message of fear,” the ATC added.
The other persons who were declared terrorists were: Marvin Miranda, Rogelio Antipolo, Rommel Pattaguan, Winrich Isturis, John Louie Gonyon, Dahniel Lora, Eulogio Gonyon Jr., Tomasino Aledro, Nigel Electona, Jomarie Catubay and Hannah Mae Oray.
Along with Teves, Miranda, Antipolo, Pattaguan, Isturis, Gonyon and Electona are facing criminal cases in connection with Degamo’s assassination, while the others are known to have links to the congressman, including his aide Oray.
Teves, who was abroad when the attack was carried out, has denied involvement in Degamo’s killing and refused to return to the country, citing threats on his life. He has served two 60-day suspensions for his prolonged unexcused absence at the House of Representatives. (See related story on this page.)‘Illogical, stupid’
Speaking with reporters in a virtual briefing on Tuesday, Teves said his terror designation was “illogical and stupid.”
“Seriously, there’s no such thing as a Teves Terrorist Group. There’s a group for action, assistance, and service. But a terrorist group?” he said.
“What stupidity is that? Why will you terrorize people before an election?” he said.
His lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said the government had “weaponized” the antiterror law “by using it for the purpose for which it was not designed.”
But Levito Baligod, legal counsel of the families of Degamo and other victims, said they were “very glad” and “hopeful that their quest for justice will conclude with the imprisonment of all responsible.”
The lawyer said the families also welcomed the inclusion of Teves’ younger brother Pryde Henry among those designated as terrorists despite his claims of innocence.
Pryde Henry has not been named a respondent in the cases involving Degamo’s death.
The ATC resolution said an investigation showed that Teves had acted as the group’s leader, while his brother and Electona “provided material support.”
Oray was believed to have handled the operational funds for the killings while Miranda acted as “organizer and recruiter of personnel for specific terrorist attacks,” the council said.
As for the others, the ATC did not specify their roles but only the sections of the antiterror law they had allegedly violated.
At a briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday, Luis Anthony Warren, AMLC legal officer, said a freeze order was placed on the Teveses’ assets under Sections 25 and 36 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
“So, upon the designation of an individual or organization [as terrorists], it is ministerial upon the part of the AMLC to issue an ex parte order to freeze without delay the assets of the subjects in this case,” Warren said.
Jonathan Malaya, assistant director general of the National Security Council, clarified that the terror designation on the Teves group was not solely based on the Degamo assassination, though it “established the pattern of violent activities.”
On May 17, two months after Degamo’s killing, the National Bureau of Investigation filed a complaint against Teves for murder, frustrated murder, and attempted murder on several counts. The charges are still pending before a panel of prosecutors at the Department of Justice.
While his brother was not charged in those cases, the two of them are facing a separate set of charges for illegal possession of firearms and explosives after authorities raided their properties and discovered a cache of weapons in late March.
Pryde Henry had served as governor of Negros Oriental for four months before he was forced to step down on Oct. 11 last year, after the Commission on Elections nullified the votes for a nuisance candidate who used the name “Ruel Degamo,” resulting in Degamo’s belated poll victory.
Degamo’s proclamation was affirmed in February by the Supreme Court.
Teves was also named a respondent in a series of killings in Negros Oriental from March to June 2019, in a separate set of cases filed in March, days after Degamo’s killing.