‘Dangerous’ use of terror law vs Teves assailed
Opposition lawmakers on Wednesday assailed what they called the government’s “dangerous and ineffective” use of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 in trying to pin down Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. and others accused of murdering his political rival Gov. Roel Degamo in March.
The three-member Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives said Republic Act No. 11479 should not be weaponized to solve crimes as this would only undermine human rights and the country’s justice system.
In a statement, party list Representatives France Castro of Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Party and Raoul Manuel of Kabataan appealed to the Supreme Court to take another look at the “dangerous provisions” of the law after the high tribunal upheld most of its provisions in April 2022.
“The Marcos administration already possesses sufficient laws and powers to go after and apprehend Representative Teves or any individual responsible for the heinous crime,” they said.
They warned that invoking the antiterror law “not only attempts to justify its existence, but also fails to address the underlying issues surrounding the effective investigation and apprehension of suspects.”
The bloc issued the statement a day after the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) branded Teves, his brother Pryde Henry and 11 others as terrorists for their alleged involvement in a spate of “killings and harassment” in their province that ended with Degamo’s murder on March 4.
Eight other people were killed during the attack in Degamo’s residential compound in Pamplona town, while a tenth victim died in May.
“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 said in its resolution released on Tuesday.
Used as a crutch
“This approach reveals the incompetence of government agencies in apprehending their suspects and highlights the tendency to use the Anti-Terrorism Act as a crutch,” the Makabayan lawmakers said.
When the government “cannot get what it wants from the courts, it goes to the ATC,” the group added, citing the council’s designation of four Cordillera activists as terrorists.
“The unilateral power of the ATC to designate will practically deprive the courts of their power to adjudicate, and any citizen of their rights. Resorting to the Anti-Terrorism Act for crime-solving undermines the principles of justice and human rights, and risks further eroding public trust in our justice system,” they said.
The lawmakers also called on the government to “refrain from indiscriminately accusing or designating anyone as a terrorist without providing credible proof and due process.”
“While we recognize the importance of ensuring justice for victims, it is imperative that we do so within the bounds of due process and respect for human rights… We must prioritize the proper investigation and prosecution of crimes through established legal mechanisms,” the bloc added.
Besides the Teves brothers, 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.
Not sowing fear
Teves, whose assets were ordered frozen by the Anti-Money Laundering Council, has repeatedly denied involvement in the Degamo murder and refused to return to the country, citing threats on his life.
As a result, the House imposed two 60-day suspensions against Teves for his continued unauthorized absences and disorderly behavior.
Teves said the ATC’s decision to brand him a terrorist was “illogical and stupid,” as he was out to win votes and support in his province, and not to sow fear among residents there.