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Negros solon pleads for ‘fundamental fairness’

After being linked as ‘mastermind’ in murder of Gov. Degamo

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THE Camp of Negros Oriental representative, Arnolfo ‘Arnie’ Teves Jr., is appealing to the government, the public and the media, to accord him “fundamental fairness” amidst insinuation that he was the ‘mastermind’ in the assassination last March 4, 2023, of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo that also resulted to the death of 8 others with at least 17 more individuals hurt during the attack (see related story).

At a press conference by his legal team in Quezon City last March 13, 2023 headed by maverick lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, he challenged the government to file a case in court against their client and not resort to publicity by politicizing the issue that has “unfairly” linked the solon to the incident.

Teves, according to Topacio, expressed confidence that once a case against him has been filed in court, “all the lapses” the Philippine National Police (PNP) committed against him “will vindicate” him.

“This is just a part of a long process. This does not weigh on public opinion,” Topacio said.

“We are challenging the authorities to file the case in court and not to resort to demonizing (Cong). Teves,” he said.

He also branded as “hearsay” all allegations liking the solon to the incident.

“Hearsay would not stand in court,” Topacio pointed out, referring to the pronouncements by the police and other government officials leading the investigation that the arrested suspects are implicating the lawmaker to the killing of Degamo.

Teves, who was in the United States during the attack on Degamo for medical treatment, had also issued a video clip on Sunday, March 6, 2023, denying his involvement thru his social media account.

In the over 16-minutes video, Teves already expressed his “fear” that he would end up as being blamed should anything happened to Degamo, their family’s close political rival in the province. He alluded to an unnamed individual who, he claimed, was behind the effort to frame him for the death of Degamo, based on his own “intelligence” source.

“Expected ko na… Napag-alaman ko kasi sa aking ‘intel’ na gusto talaga ako ‘idiin’ ng isa d’yan. Nagkamali siya ng salita dahil hindi niya alam na marami akong kakilala… Huwag naman ninyo akong gawin na instrumento para sa inyong pagsikat.”

Members of the Philippine National Police carries the coffin of Negros Governor Roel Dagamo to his final resting place in his hometown of Siaton, March 16, 2023 (video grab from CNN footage).

Teves also pointed that he and his family would gain nothing by killing Degamo as the elected vice governor of the province, Carlo Jorge Juan ‘Guido’ Reyes, would takeover the position as governor by virtue of the rule of succession.

(Reyes was sworn into office as governor by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos hours after the killing of Degamo in order not to prejudice the delivery of public service to the province).

(Teves’ brother, Pryde Henry, defeated Degamo in the May 2022 midterm polls but the result was overturned by the Commission on Elections and gave the position to Degamo last October 2022 with the ruling being affirmed by the Supreme Court).

“Kung may kakayahan ako na gawin ito, sana ginawa ko na ito bago ang eleksyon…Ano ang motibo kung ngayon ko gagawin hindi rin magiging benepisyaryo ako at ang kapatid ko dahil mawala ang governor, ang uupo ay ang vice governor.

“Again, sa lahat ng krimen ang unang hinahanap ng imbestigador at pulisya ay motibo; kung sino ang magkakaroon ng benepisyo sa pangyayari. Sa totoo lang wala kaming makukuhang benepisyo sa pangyayaring ito.”

Prior to the murder of Degamo, Teves, thru Topacio, has been complaining that he is being “persecuted” by Abalos to the point that all his firearms licenses were suddenly revoked by the PNP.

More woes; House to probe Teves

On Wednesday, March 15, 2023, House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, after meeting with Topacio, said he would be leaving to the House Ethics Committee, the recommendation to approve or reject the request by Teves for a 2-month leave of absence, citing the “grave security threat” to his life and his family.

“The Committee on Ethics has already acquired jurisdiction over Cong. Arnie’s case. I will act accordingly after the Committee wraps up its investigation and submits its recommendation to the House leadership,” Romualdez said in a statement.
The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) last March 7, 2023, filed criminal complaints for murder against Teves and 4 others before the DOJ for their alleged involvement in three separate killings in Negros in 2019.

Last March 15, 2023, the CIDG again filed a criminal information against the lawmaker, two of his sons, Kurt Mathew and Axel, along with 6 of his employees and housemates for illegal possession of firearms resulting from a police raid of Teves’ houses in Bayawan City and Basay town last March 10, 2023.

But another of Teves’ lawyer, Edward Santiago, protested that the serving of the search warrant for the raids “does not comply with what the law says.”

Santiago said the ‘search’ was preceded by the arrival of several policemen “in full battle gears” carrying “fully laden bags” of unknown contents who also ordered Teves’ family staff to get out of the house.

When the second group of policemen entered, Santiago said that was the only time they identified themselves as the search team, and later on found the alleged firearms of the congressman.

Topacio bewailed that the serving of the search warrant was also in violation of the strict order from the Supreme Court that all those serving search warrants must wear body cameras.

As of this posting, there is no confirmation as to when Teves intends to return to the country.

Information reaching the Department of Justice (DOJ) disclosed that the lawmaker had already left the US mainland is already “somewhere in Asia.

A reliable source said the lawmaker is now in South Korea.

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