Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Friday said he has instructed the Witness Protection Program (WPP) to exert the "maximum effort" to help the families of those who have been accused in the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo.
“We have to give a little comfort zone to the people who are charged with the crime and hopefully that will soften them up to be able to reveal more facts about the case," Remulla said.
"That’s why I instructed the WPP to give maximum effort in helping out even the accused,” he added.
Degamo and five others were shot dead while he was distributing aid to his constituents at his residence in Pamplona, Negros Oriental.
Several others were wounded in the attack, and the following day that death toll had climbed to nine.
Following this, murder and frustrated murder charges were filed against Joric Garido Labrador, Joven Calibjo Javier, Benjie Rodriguez, Osmundo Rojas Rivero, and 12 John Does.
Remulla said the suspects are not yet under witness protection.
Despite this, the Justice secretary said witness assistance, and humanitarian assistance is part of the work of the Justice Department in witness protection.
“Basta kaya ibigay, ibibigay eh. ‘Yun lang naman ang ugali natin kasi nga gusto natin matapos na yung kaso. At mas dadali ang kaso kung mas maluwag sa kanila umamin o magsabi ng katotohanan,” Remulla said.
(As long as we can give it, we will give it. That is the attitude that we want because we want this case to end. And the case will be faster if they feel that they can confess or tell us the truth.)
Meanwhile, Remulla said the late governor visited him twice when he was already secretary.
He said the first visit was a few days before the Supreme Court decided to uphold his victory as the provincial governor of Negros Oriental, leading to the proclamation of Pryde Henry Teves as governor to be annulled.
Remulla said the second was a “friendly visit” around September.
“He [Degeamo] was already complaining about the violence in Negros but it was a general statement. There were no specifics,” Remulla said.
Suspects in the killing have named a certain “Cong Teves” as the person behind the fatal attack.
The incumbent congressman in Negros Oriental is Arnie Teves. His brother, former Bayawan City Mayor Pryde Henry Teves, also served as a representative before running against Degamo in the 2022 elections.
When asked if the government is also investigating Pryde Henry Teves, Remulla reiterated that the government is investigating all individuals with possible motives.
“Syempre ‘pag sinabi natin we will not spare anybody lahat ‘yan under investigation. We are not exempting anybody from the investigation as long as they may have a possible relationship or motive,” Remulla said.
(Of course, when we say that we will not spare anybody, they are all under investigation. We are not exempting anybody from the investigation as long as they may have a possible relationship or motive.)
“Ganyan ang investigation dapat open ka sa lahat. You do not exempt anybody,” he added.
(That’s how an investigation should be, you should be open to all. You do not exempt anybody.)
Following a visit to the wake of the late governor, Remulla said officials noticed a "pattern of impunity" in Negros Oriental. He said individuals they interviewed mentioned may be called by the National Bureau of Investigation as part of its efforts to unmask the brains behind the killing.
When asked if Henry Teves was among the names mentioned, Remulla said yes as Arnie Teves and he were brothers.
“Lumalabas din syempre dahil magkapatid sila eh (he also came up because they are siblings),” he said, later adding that he has not recently communicated with Henry Teves.
Meanwhile, Remulla said that Arnie Teves has left the United States and is now in Asia. —NB, GMA Integrated News
A document from the Office of the House Secretary General Reginald Velasco showed that Teves was cleared to travel to the US from February 28 to March 9 for a personal trip.
“Ang latest information is nakaalis na siya ng America. He’s somewhere in Asia now pero hindi pa siya nakakalipad papasok dito,” Remulla said.
(The latest information is that he has left America. He’s somewhere in Asia now but he has not yet entered the Philippines.)
Arnie Teves’ lawyer, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, earlier said Teves will face the allegations of murder.
On Tuesday, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group filed three counts of murder against Teves for allegedly being the mastermind behind the killings in 2019.
Earlier in the day, police conducted raids on five houses, some of which belonged to Teves, in search of loose firearms. Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos said the raid is connected with the 2019 incident.