Philippine gov't tags Teves, 12 others as terrorists

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Philippine gov't tags Teves, 12 others as terrorists
Negros Oriental 3rd District Cong. Arnolfo Teves Jr. holds a press conference with Atty. Ferdie Topacio in Pasig City on Thursday (January 12, 2023) to plead for his family's safety after receiving reports of an alleged police raid in his residence to seize evidence on his alleged connection to e-sabong.
The STAR / Michael Varcas


MANILA, Philippines (Update 2: 4:58 p.m.) — The Anti-Terrorism Council has designated Rep. Arnolfo Teves (Negros Oriental)—the alleged mastermind in the assassination of governor Roel Degamo—as a terrorist. 

The move allows the Anti-Money Laundering Council to investigate and freeze the financial assets and properties of Teves—who is believed to be overseas—and members of his alleged armed group. 

The ATC resolution, which was approved on July 26 but was only released Tuesday, named the suspended lawmaker the leader of the “Teves Terrorist Group” and also tagged as terrorists his brother, Pryde Henry, alleged bagman Marvin Miranda, and the following:

  • Rogelio Antipolo
  • Rommel Pattaguan
  • Winrich Isturis
  • John Louie Gonyon
  • Dahniel Lora
  • Eulogio Gonyon Jr.
  • Tomasino Aledro
  • Nigel Electona
  • Jomarie Catubay
  • Hannah Mae Sumero Onay

Various groups have raised concerns about the potential abuses of the Anti-Terrorism Act, saying the law is being used to persecute political opponents and to suppress dissent. More than 35 groups questioned its constitutionality before the Supreme Court, but the tribunal left the law virtually untouched in the end.

The government told the court during debates that there were safeguards against abuse of the law and that designated persons would have recourse to question their being tagged as terrorists.

Ferdinand Topacio, Teves’ lead counsel, said in a statement that the government “has expectedly weaponized the Anti-Terror Act by using it for the purpose for which it was not designed.”

Killings, harassment in Negros Oriental

The ATC alleged that Teves and his armed group violated the Anti-Terrorism Act, particularly the law’s Section 4 for committing terrorism, Section 6 for planning, training, preparing and facilitating the commission of terrorism, Section 10 for recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization, and Section 12 for providing material support to terrorists. 

Teves and his lawyers had questioned the basis of the move to tag him as a terrorist, but Justice chief Jesus Crispin Remulla had said that he can be designated due to the brazenness of the crime that can “terrorize” others. 

The 10-page resolution mentioned the “several killings or harassments” in Negros Oriental, including the March 4 bloodbath that killed Degamo and nine others. Teves denied any involvement in the killing of Degamo. 

The council said that such acts showed “an unmistakeable pattern of a rather organized and orchestrated action” and 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.”

“These acts are also designed to influence by intimidation the local population and government of Negros Oriental to seriously undermine public safety and to ensure that Cong. Teves Jr. and his group could continue and expand their reign of terror in the guise of political leadership,” the ATC said. 

‘Independent proceeding’

In a briefing Tuesday, the DOJ stressed that the designation of Teves as a terrorist is an independent proceeding from the preliminary investigation into the multiple murder complaints filed against him. The lawmaker earlier asked the DOJ to dismiss the murder complaints, which have been submitted for resolution.

“Preliminary investigation is a prelude to the criminal action of the court if there’s an indictment. Designation can come first, or it can come after,” Justice Undersecretary Nicholas Felix Ty said. 

“Under the procedure laid down by law and by its implementing rules and guidelines, we’re not required to hear from respondents. That’s not the case with preliminary investigations where respondents have a right to be heard,” he added. 

The DOJ declined to disclose the government’s next steps following the designation of Teves and his alleged armed group. 

Teves, citing fears for his life, refuses to return to the Philippines. So far, no warrant of arrest has been issued against him. 

The ATC also designated two individuals affiliated with the Maute group as terrorists. 

“The designation of the Maute group and the Teves terrorist group is a significant stride toward addressing the proliferation and emergence of private armed groups within the nation,” DOJ spokesperson Mico Clavano said. — with reports from Kristine Joy Patag and Xave Gregorio


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