‘Teves eyed as one of Degamo slay brains’

Neil Jayson Servallos - The Philippine Star
�Teves eyed as one of Degamo slay brains�
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on March 27, 2023, reveals that Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. could be one of the masterminds in the brazen killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo.
STAR / Edd Gumban

Links to crime ring behind multiple Negros killings probed

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) believes that a “criminal organization” linked to Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. is likely responsible for the murder of governor Roel Degamo and several other killings in the province.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla revealed this yesterday, saying the organization is involved in illegal gambling, assassinations and other activities that violate the law.

“As people have been saying… I personally don’t want to speak until a case has been filed. But there is a big possibility that Congressman Arnie Teves is involved in all of this,” he said over CNN Philippines.

Remulla said they already have evidence to implicate Teves in the killing of Degamo. However, he said they are still evaluating the weight of the evidence before filing a complaint against the Negros lawmaker.

“We have contact (with the masterminds), I think. They are always on social media. Last week, Cong. Teves texted me. They’re being considered as masterminds, but I don’t know yet, I have to get it to the panel of prosecutors. But right now, the way it is progressing, that is the direction we are heading,” he added.

Remulla said he expects the first complaints regarding Degamo’s killing to be filed within the week, possibly on Friday.

Remulla said some people in law enforcement in the province are “affiliated” with Teves, leaving the DOJ and other investigating agencies to rely on military intelligence, as the lawmaker’s alleged cronies are providing “unreliable” intelligence.

“One reason we had to bring in military intelligence… We could not rely on some of the intelligence we used to rely on. Because of this compromised system also. As I said, this is a criminal organization. A very big one and it’s no joke,” he said. “With the facts given to us, this organization functions uniquely. That’s why we really had to rely on military intelligence on the last part (of the investigation to be able to get the suspects).”

The justice secretary earlier said they have listed about 17 names that could possibly be part of this political mafia of sorts. The names were provided by the mayors and other individuals.

Pryde may be implicated

Teves’ brother, former Negros Oriental governor Pryde Henry Teves, may also be implicated in the crime after authorities seized more firearms and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in a sugar mill owned by him in Sta. Catalina.

“It’s possible… We will look at all the facts in the best way possible so we can see the participation of people,” he said.

“The IEDs that were found are consistent with the statement made by one of those who came later, already in early March, that when he came in, he saw somebody preparing IEDs,” Remulla said, referring to one of the suspects who surrendered to the DOJ.

He also said the suspects did not mention the Teves brothers when they talked about the IEDs, but he believes that the safehouse where the suspects stayed to lay low after the attack was owned by the Teves family. “No mention of names but the ownership of the safehouse is the one that is important there and I believe it is owned and controlled by the Teveses,” he said.


Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo yesterday said they found a picture of the Degamo family, as well as routes and maps supposedly used in the planning stage of the assassination, among pieces of evidence recovered by the Special Investigation Task Force.

At the same briefing, PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said they will subject the confiscated different calibers of firearms to forensic examination. They are looking at the possibility that the firearms were used in some previous incidents in Negros Oriental.

“These could have been used, or could be used, in the future,” Azurin said. “So these things will be subjected to a forensic examination, ballistic examination, and this may have hits on the other victims of crimes in Negros Oriental.”

Azurin underscored that with the volume of firearms confiscated, “definitely, this is a means of the group or those who procured and possessed their firearms, it would mean they have a group using these for their illegal activities.”

The license to own and possess firearms of former governor Teves and others will also be subjected to inquiry.

Several firearms have been seized in separate operations against individuals allegedly linked to the murder of Degamo.

Murder charges

DOJ spokesman Mico Clavano announced on Wednesday that the agency’s prosecutors have recommended the filing of murder charges against six suspects involved in the killing of Degamo.

Clavano said the murder case has yet to proceed at the level of a preliminary investigation, as the DOJ still needs to subpoena congressman Teves.

“The JTF (Joint Task Force) would like to announce that the resolution on the inquest has been released today March 27. The resolution recommends the filing of sets of information (charges) against the six respondents for nine counts of murder for the killing of Gov. Degamo, they will also be charged with 13 counts of frustrated murder and three counts of attempted murder,” Clavano said at a press conference.

The DOJ has yet to provide a copy of the resolution of the inquest proceedings of the six surrenderees, all of whom were said to be ex-soldiers and played “key parts” in the deadly attack against Degamo earlier this month.

Clavano said the frustrated murder charge for Diomedes Omatang, another surrenderee, was referred for further investigation.

Earlier, Joric Garido Labrador, Joven Calibojo Javier, Benjie Buladola Rodriguez and Osmundo Rojas Rivero – the first ones to surrender – were charged with multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder before a Negros Oriental court.

Expulsion case

The office of Speaker Martin Romualdez had sent to the committees on ethics and rules of the House of Representatives the complaint filed by the governor’s widow for the expulsion of Teves.

The letter-complaint of Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo was forwarded by House secretary-general Reginald Velasco to the ethics committee of Rep. Felimon Espares and rules committee led by Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe.

The box for “appropriate action” was stamped with a check, while the document stated that the “subject” was a “transmittal from the Office of the Speaker, care of Mayor Janice Degamo of Pamplona, Negros Oriental.”

A total of 292 House members voted last week to suspend Teves, who repeatedly refused to come home despite calls from Romualdez to return since his Feb. 28 travel authority had lapsed last March 9.

“This was why Teves was not allowed to join the session and deliver his privilege speech and attend the House ethics committee hearings regarding his case via the Zoom app – mainly due to the fact that his continued defiance warranted a penalty of suspension,” Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Raul Angelo Bongalon said.


Ferdinand Topacio, lawyer of Teves, has spoken out against the insinuations being made about his client’s involvement in Degamo’s murder, calling on authorities to complete their investigation and file the case so his client can defend himself in court.

“From the start of the investigation, all oblique reference, innuendo has been directed to Congressman Teves. So, we are not surprised. For us, people should refrain from insinuating that there are illegal gambling links, illegal activity and just file the case so it can be finished. So we can defend ourselves because in instances like this, we can’t defend ourselves. Just refrain from speaking if there’s no certainty yet,” Topacio said, as he urged Remulla to maintain the DOJ’s impartiality.

Topacio also warned of the danger of Remulla’s statements, noting that prosecutors might subconsciously think that “we can no longer have a finding that Teves had anything to do with Degamo’s murder because our Secretary will lose face.”

Meanwhile, Topacio and lawyer Joselito Lomangayan asked the House committee on ethics and privileges to lift the 60-day suspension and allow Teves to “participate in the sessions and discharge his duties as member of Congress, virtually in the meantime.”

“It should be considered that while Rep. Teves has not returned to the country due to his belief that his life will be in peril if he does so, he did not disregard, but instead continued to submit to, the authority of Congress, first, by invoking its power to allow him an extension and a leave of absence,” their letter indicated.

Near the end

For his part, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos on Monday said he is confident that the government is close to unmasking the masterminds behind the murder of Degamo.

“This is my message to the mastermind. I know you know who you are. You better surrender. All the evidence was gathered in the past days. The suspects are all in custody,” Abalos said.

He did not directly name Teves but maintained that all the evidence points to him. “We all have our own opinion about who this person is. For me, based on my opinion, I am a lawyer and I know who he is…but right now this is what I assure him or whoever the mastermind is. Our evidence is strong,” he said.

Abalos added that the discovery of explosives and more firearms from the sugar mill compound solidified the case against those behind the killing of Degamo.

According to Abalos, authorities are now looking into the possible connivance with the New People’s Army in carrying out terrorist activities.

Among those seized from the property were six rifles of various calibers, nine pistols of various calibers, 9,615 rounds of live ammunition, 207 spent shells of different calibers, 45 pieces of steel and plastic magazines of different calibers, an assortment of firearms accessories and about P18 million in cash. – Delon Porcalla, Bella Cariaso, Ralph Edwin Villanueva, Sheila Crisostomo

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