Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Monday said the Justice Department is seeking to designate as terrorists three to five people who may be working with suspended Negros Oriental Congressman Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr.
In an ambush interview, Remulla said this includes Marvin Miranda, one of the alleged masterminds in the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo.
“We’ll be meeting with the Anti-Terror Council (ATC) very soon, in the next few days, and we’ll be discussing… the designation of Congressman Teves as a terrorist. And some of the people who work with him to… have the same designation,” Remulla said.
“We’re looking at three, four, or five other people who may be considered as part of the terror organization of Mr. Teves,” he added.
When asked if this included Miranda, Remulla said he is part of the "core group."
"Kasama siya sa core group. What others call a terrorist cell. Kasama siya," Remulla said. [[He (Miranda) is a member of the core group ... what others call a terrorist cell. He is included.]
According to Remulla, the five people are not government officials but played “very pivotal roles” in the killing of Degamo and eight others on March 4.
“That act alone instilled fear in most people in Negros Oriental. If they can do it to a governor, what more for other people, ordinary people. I think that’s something we should remember,” he said.
When asked if the five people they are seeking to designate as terrorists are the same five possible masterminds in the Degamo killing, Remulla said they played “different roles.”
Despite this, he said authorities are still working on the details.
Remulla had said that Teves appears to be the mastermind behind the assassination, likening him to an “executive producer” and Miranda to a “director or casting director.”
For his part, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, Teves’ legal counsel, declined to comment.
“No comment. Walang basagan ng trip,” Topacio said in a message to GMA News Online. Teves earlier denied involvement in the killing of Degamo.
At the same time, Remulla said they will look into the alleged illegal cockfighting and Small Town Lottery (STL) operations of the suspended congressman.
Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo had alleged during a Senate hearing that Teves and his brother, former Negros Oriental Governor Pryde Henry, are sourcing their money from the operations. Pryde Henry has since denied the allegations.
“That’s where we’re it could go now. The fact that this money is being used— was used to finance terrorism, should be one angle that we should follow as investigators, as people who are investigating a crime so dastardly,” Remulla said.
Last week, Remulla said the complaint for illegal possession of firearms and explosives filed against the lawmaker is enough to designate him as a terrorist to force him to surrender to authorities.
Teves, who has yet to return to the country amid fears for his safety, had said that he finds the possibility of being tagged as a terrorist funny.
Despite this, he has appealed for fairness, saying he will come home "when it is safe enough" or when the trial is fair.
According to Remulla, authorities also found a helicopter allegedly owned by Teves. The helicopter was allegedly used by suspects in the Degamo killing to escape Negros Oriental.
“Nilikas sila mula sa Negros Oriental papunta sa Maguindanao. Ginamit yung chopper kaya ito’y inisiuan na ng warrant,” Remulla said.
[They were whisked out of Negros Orietal and brought to Maguindanao using a helicopter.]
“’Yan isa yan sa mga bagay na napapaniwala ka na meron siyang kinalaman kasi chopper niya mismo ang ginamit na sinakyan ng mga salarin upang makatakas sila mula sa Negros Oriental,” he added.
Remulla said the helicopter was retrieved from Teves’ hangar in Dumaguete.
He said they are seeking to place the helicopter under the Philippine National Police or the Philippine Army in Cebu for safekeeping.
Remulla also said that he met with Mayor Degamo and other families of the victims who were killed on Thursday.
“Nag-usap kami and she was just thanking us, the DOJ, for the job that we’re doing regarding the cases that have been there,” he said.
The Justice Secretary said he may also meet with some of those injured during the March 4 incident.
For her part, Mayor Degamo said she had extended her gratitude to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“No, we were there just to extend our thanks. And we were surprised to find that parang nag handa sila. Tapos biglaan ‘yun. Last minute. Parang nag try lang kami,” she said in a separate ambush interview.
She said they told him they will not abuse his kindness and will only ask for help if necessary.
According to Remulla, Marcos did not stay very long.
“The President also dropped by only for a short time. I was told that he didn’t really stay too long because wala, ganon talaga siya. He just wanted to greet everybody and I think the executive secretary stayed longer,” Remulla said. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News