Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Monday said suspended Negros Oriental Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. appears to be the main mastermind in the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo.
In an ambush interview, Remulla likened Teves to an “executive producer” of a movie while Marvin Miranda, one of the alleged masterminds caught by authorities last week, was a “director or casting director.”
“Sabi ko nga kung sa sine, Congressman Teves is executive producer and the producer and he (Miranda) is the director and casting director,” Remulla said.
(I said if it was a movie, Congressman Teves would be the executive producer and the producer and he [Miranda] is the director and casting director.)
Asked if this means the congressman is the main mastermind in the killing, Remulla said, “he is.”
“He appears to be,” Remulla added.
Remulla said Teves financed the killing as the alleged “executive producer.”
“Nag fi-finance. ‘Yung mga baril sa kanila galing. Siya bumibili ng mga baril. ‘Yung lugar kung nag tataguan, bumibili ng sasakyan, pinapag— ina-ano niya, fini-finance niya lahat. Producer nga, executive producer, financing everything,” he said.
(He financed. The firearms were from him. He bought them. The safehouse, he bought cars, he financed everything. He’s a producer, an executive producer, financing everything.)
He said the congressman also allegedly provided a helicopter.
“There’s a lot. Hindi pa namin nilalabas lahat. We don’t have to telegraph our punches. Basta marami pa iba (There's much more). Testimonies are part of them,” he said.
Last week, Remulla said Teves fit in the middle of everything after he announced that the case was 99% solved already.
For their part, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, Teves' legal counsel, said they will no longer comment on the secretary's latest remarks.
"We will just await the filing of whatever charges may be made, and say our piece in the proper forum. Again, we emphasize that the bar of public opinion is not the right venue to determine the guilt or innocence of anyone," he said.
Remulla said Miranda was the one he was referring to when he said one of the suspects in the assassination had a video call with the mastermind.
“Oo, si Marvin yun, siya ‘yung kausap at pinakita sa isang— sa first four. Pinakita yung nakausap. Ang sabi good luck,” he said.
(Yes, it was Marvin. He was the person who was discussing the assassination plot and even said "good luck".)
The Justice Secretary also believes that Miranda was a mastermind and not a middleman amid confusion over the suspect’s role.
“Hindi, hindi middleman ‘yun (no, he’s not a middleman),” Remulla said.
“Siya yung kausap lagi na kumuha ng tao, kumuha ng armas, pati yung ano, pati yung mag re-recruit ng tao, pati yung number ng tao na huling dumating nung plinaplano nila. Yung pagplano pa lang nung pag galaw kasama na yun,” he added.
(He was the one recruiting people, he retrieved the firearms, and he was also involved in getting other people for the plan as well as coordinating the movement.)
Miranda underwent inquest proceedings at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday afternoon.
Remulla, during a separate press conference, said that the Degamo’s killing is considered "case closed" as authorities will proceed to the prosecution of suspects.
“We can say that we have made significant progress in finally putting this case to a close,” Remulla told reporters.
“Tapos na po, nakita na natin. Kumbaga sa pulis, case closed na ito. Prosecution na tayo pagkatapos,” he added.
(It is already finished, we already found out. Like in police matters, this is already case closed. We will now proceed to the prosecution.)
Remulla said Miranda is now talking to authorities but the Justice secretary said he has not seen any statement from the suspect yet.
According to Remulla, Teves was referred to as “Kalbo", “Boss Idol,” and “Big Boss” by the suspects.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos, meanwhile, said 12 suspects in the Degamo’s killing are accounted for and are now under the custody of the authorities. One suspect, however, was killed during an operation, he added.
Remulla also said an alleged lawyer of Miranda attempted to speak with him but Miranda did not know him.
“May nag ke-claim na lawyer niya pero hindi naman niya kilala eh. Hindi niya kilala,” he said.
(There's a person claiming to be Miranda's lawyer. But Miranda did not know who he was.)
Former Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo, who claimed to be Miranda's lawyer, said he was prevented from meeting his client. He said he went to the NBI to talk to his client but he was told that Miranda was undergoing a secret process.
The NBI has yet to comment on Orceo's claims.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) is now coordinating with the NBI to clarify the matter.
“Nakipag-ugnayan nga po tayo sa NBI para linawin nga po 'yan. But according to them, ay itong nagpapakilala na abogado ay hindi po kilala ni Ginoong Miranda at sinasabi niya hindi po niya ito kinuha personal,” said PNP spokesperson Police Colonel Jean Fajardo
(We coordinated with the NBI to clarify that. But according to them, Mr. Miranda said that he does not know this lawyer and he did not personally hire him.)
Topacio, meanwhile, claimed that the DOJ, the NBI, and the PNP are violating the constitutional rights of the detained suspects.
"[W]hy they are being moved around the country against their will, being denied the right to counsel, and subjected to improper pressure and influence to make them testify falsely against Cong. Teves," Topacio said.
"These acts evince not just the weakness of the government's case, but an illegal scheme to manipulate the evidence to unfoundedly incriminate a person," he added.
Degamo and eight others were killed while several others were injured after an attack at the governor's home in Negros Oriental on March 4 while he was distributing aid to his constituents.
Teves is being linked to the crime after suspects in the killing pointed to a certain “Cong. Teves” as the one who ordered the hit.
The lawmaker, who refuses to return to the country due to fears for his safety, earlier denied involvement in the killing of Degamo. He also appealed for authorities' "fairness" and for investigators to look at all angles in Degamo's killing.
Over the weekend, Topacio said his client made certain requests to ensure his safe return to the country. He also commented that it's "too early" for Remulla to claim that the case is already 99% solved.
Negros Oriental killings
Meanwhile, Remulla said Teves is also being pointed as the one behind most of the murders in Negros Oriental.
“Many of them are pointing to him as behind, behind most of these murders in Negros, most of the other murders,” he said.
“There are people who want to point out former Governor Teves and former Congressman Teves, yung kapatid no (the brother), but we have to see the evidence,” he added.
He previously said officials noticed a “pattern of impunity” in the province after a visit to the wake of Degamo.
The Justice Secretary said an "organization" of seven to 10 people may be behind the killings in the province and that suspects may intersect at some point” or “may have a lot in common” with the suspects involved in the Degamo assassination. — with Joviland Rita/ VAL, GMA Integrated News