Suspended Negros Oriental Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. on Monday found the possibility of being tagged as a "terrorist" for his refusal to return to the Philippines funny.
“Ang pakiramdam ko, sa totoo lang, nakakatawa na,” Teves said in a Zoom interview.
“Nagiging ano na eh… nagiging perya na siya. It’s becoming to be a circus. Diba? Paano ka magiging terorista kung hindi ka pa nga nakakasuhan? Sabay, paano ka magiging mastermind in the first place, diba, kung wala man silang, walang—there’s nothing,” he added.
This came after Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla during a Senate hearing said the Justice Department will seek to designate and proscribe Teves as a terrorist to force him to surrender to authorities.
Meanwhile, Teves' lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, said Remulla could not weaponize a particular law for a different purpose.
“By using the Anti-Terrorism Act against a person who is not a terrorist, and not for the purpose for which the law was enacted, would distort the law and pervert the ends of justice,” Topacio told GMA News Online.
“But if Mr. Remulla wants to show the world how the Department of Justice of the Philippines works at present, of course, nothing can stop him from wielding his new-found power. As the song goes, if it makes him happy,” he added.
Teves is being linked to the March 4 assassination of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo after suspects in the killing pointed to a “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.
Handcuff the screen?
He was also unable to join the hearing after the Senate agreed not to allow him to attend a hearing via video-teleconferencing after Degamo's widow, Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, said saying it was unfair that Teves would be allowed to join online while they made an effort to appear physically.
Topacio, however, asked how this was fair.
“Sabi niya on the ground of fairness, wag daw pasalihin si Congressman Teves. Nasaan ang fairness? Kung di mo iintinidihin ‘yung other side. So anong mangyayari sa Senado? Sila-sila lang din talagang mag-uusap doon. Echo chamber 'yun,” he said in an ambush interview.
For his part, Senator Ronald Bato Dela Rosa said they did not block the Teves camp but required them to attend the hearing physically.
“Paano kung magsinungaling sila sa virtual participation. Paano mako-contempt, paano tayo magkaroon ng custody? I-grab ang screen ng TV tapos posasan mo?” Dela Rosa said.
“So hindi naman tayo ganon katanga na. Ang di lang papayagan ang hindi natin makuha ang kustodiya, wala tayong custody over them,” he added.
'When I feel safe'
During the hearing, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said that his friends saw Teves in a hotel in South Korea eating at a buffet.
When asked to confirm, Teves declined to comment, saying, “It’s for me to know and for them to find out.”
The suspended lawmaker also stressed that the threat to his life is real.
“Sa totoo lang, the threat to my life is true. Kung wala lang threat sa aking buhay, pumunta na ako dyan. Hindi ko rin alam bakit kailangan pumunta talaga dyan,” Teves said.
Teves also questioned Philippine officials who promised that he would be safe, saying that Degamo had been killed even with his security.
“‘Yung isang tao na binantayan ng sandamakmak na army at pulis pa, anim ‘yung body guard, ngayon patay na. Sana masagot nila ‘yun. Sana sagutin ‘yun ni Remulla at ni Abalos,” he said.
When asked about President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s assuring his safety when he returns, Teves asked why the government was not able to keep Degamo alive.
“Bakit hindi nila nasiguro ‘yung kaligtasan ni Degamo? Ka-alyado nila ‘yun, diba? Bakit hindi nila nasiguro ‘yung kaligtasan ni Degamo. If they can answer that question, I’ll go home,” he said.
He also said he is not scared of being arrested should he return because there is no case against him.
“Ang kinakatakutan ko is the foul play,” he said.
Teves said he plans to return to the Philippines when he feels safe.
“Of course, of course. Definitely. When I feel safe. When I feel safe, I’ll go home,” he said.
Meanwhile, Teves said authorities immediately pointed at several individuals as the possible masterminds before conducting an investigation.
“Bakit nauna ang pagtuturo, lalo ang pagtuturo sa akin, hindi inuna ang imbestigasyon? Isipin mo right away, may mastermind na?” he said.
“Bakit hindi niyo tinignan ‘yung mga nag absent na pulis? Bakit hindi niyo tinanong ‘yung mga naka-duty na army sa kanya at sa outpost malapit sa bahay niya, wala man lang nag react nang may nangyayari,” he added.
He said the same script used on former Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag is being used on him.
“May iba kasing tao diyan na gusto na kumita, gusto pa sumikat. Pansinin niyo. Ang pangyayari kay DG Bantag at pangyayari sa akin, parehong-pareho ang script. Parehong-pareho ang script… Pinagbintangan nila si Bantag kaagad,” he said.
“Sa akin malamang gagawin din nila ‘yun. Expected ko na ‘yun,” he added.
Teves said he is no longer expecting a fair trial.
“Sa totoo lang, sa mga nakikita ko, hindi ko na ine-expect anf fair trial. Bakit? Nauna nga ang pag husga sa pag imbestiga,” he said.
Meanwhile, Teves also questioned why the government used a C-130 to transport Mayor Degamo to Manila to attend the hearing.
“Dada nang dada si Janice Degamo na gumastos pa sila, nag-effort sila…tanong ko nga anong sinakyan nung mga dala niyang tao papunta sa Manila. Diba C-130 ng ating gobyerno?” he said.
“Kung pinasakay nila ‘yun ng commercial, kahit 100 tao pa ‘yun, P5,000 lang ‘yung pamasahe sa Cebu Pacific. E di dapat P500,000 lang. ‘Dyan mo makikita, bakit ginastusan ng gobyerno ‘yung pribadong tao para sa pribadong pakay,” he added.
Teves also said he is still trying to reach out to the President.
Marcos previously said the best intelligence they have shows that there is no threat against the lawmaker.
“Kung wala siyang na-monitor, baka yung nagbibigay sa kanya ng impormasyon hindi pinapaabot yung katotohanan,” Teves said.
“Because again, nagsalita na ako December 28, 2022 [at] January 11, 2023. Nagkatotoo ang aking sinabi. Na ire-raid ‘yung bahay ko at tataniman. Anong nangyari, nag katotoo,” he added.
Meanwhile, Teves also questioned why no inter-agency task force was created for other politicians or individuals who were killed.
“Dapat lahat ng namatay may inter-agency task force. ‘Wag na lang ‘yung driver ko. Ilang politiko ang namatay bago namatay si Degamo? Bakit walang ano,” he said. — BM, GMA Integrated News