Teves lawyer belittles raps for 2019 slays
MANILA, Philippines — The lawyer of embattled Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. again belittled the announcement of the Department of Justice (DOJ) announcement on Friday that the representative would be indicted for three cases of murder in 2019.
“It is not a validation of the strength of their case, but of the present perversion of the system,” Teves’ lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said on Saturday.
He was referring to the DOJ’s announcement that Teves, along with five others, would be indicted for the 2019 killings of Negros Oriental provincial board member Michael Dungog, Lester Bato and Pacito Libron.
Dungog was an agent of the National Bureau of Investigation before entering Negros Oriental politics while Bato and Libron were known aides of political leaders in the province.
The charges were supposed to have been filed on Friday, but the DOJ said they would be lodged at the Manila Regional Trial Court on Monday if prosecutors fail to meet the deadline.
But Topacio dismissed the cases as a baseless “moro-moro,” or Spanish colonial pop theater, meant to persecute Teves for “political reasons.”
“Those who filed these baseless complaints should not be heard to rejoice about their empty victory. With the deck stacked heavily in their favor, even a stone crab could have secured an indictment,” Topacio said.
Topacio also mocked Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, saying: “What else can we expect of a justice department whose leadership has been using the laws as a blunt instrument of persecution?”
Remulla tagged Teves as the “mastermind” of the March 4 killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and 11 supporters, based on the supposed “confession” of arrested suspects, all linked to Teves.
The justice secretary also said he asked the Anti-Terrorism Council to designate Teves, his brother Pryde Henry and 11 others as “terrorists” behind a series of killings in Negros Oriental.
But the DOJ’s confessed perpetrators supposedly retracted their confessions and state prosecutors have not filed charges against Teves in connection with the Degamo assassination.
The DOJ said, however, the cases of the 2019 killings were based on the confession of alleged hitman Gemuel Hobro, who claimed to have been part of a group that Teves purportedly hired to carry out the killings.
The group, also to be indicted with Teves, included Hannah Mae Sumerano, Richard Cuadra, Jasper Tanasan, Alex Mayagma and Rolando Pinili. Hobro claimed to personally know the group members and were with them during the contracted killings. However, Hobro turned state witness and has since been conditionally admitted into the Witness Protection Program.
Meanwhile, Teves’ whereabouts remained unknown at press time, although he has been suspended twice by the House of Representatives for refusing to attend sessions and has also been stripped of membership in three committees.
Teves has not returned to the country since he went on medical leave from the House in February. His official leave expired on March 9 and he was found to have applied for political asylum from East Timor.