Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesperson Mico Clavano on Thursday said he believes the government remains to have a solid case against the camp of Negros Oriental Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. despite recent recantation of testimonies made by suspects in the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo.
“Siguro ang basa ko dito play lamang ito ng kabila para siguro sirain ‘yung kaso. Pero sa amin naman dahil inanticipate ho namin ito ay sa tingin namin solid pa rin ‘yung aming kaso,” Clavano said in a Zoom interview.
(I think this is only a play of the other camp to destroy the case. But since we anticipated this, we think that our case remains solid.)
Asked who he was referring to, Clavano said, “well, the respondents. And I believe kasama na ho doon si Congressman Teves at ‘yung kampo ho niya.”
Teves is being linked to the March 4 assassination of Degamo and 9 others, with Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla saying he appears to be the “main mastermind” in the ploy. He has repeatedly denied the allegations against him.
For Clavano, the recantations may be a play to discredit the investigation, the DOJ, and the case.
This came after suspects Osmundo River, Rogelio Antipolo Jr., Dahniel Lora, and Romel Pattaguan recanted their testimonies earlier this week, though three recantations have not been officially received by the Justice Department.
Despite the recantations, Clavano said they have other evidence as they expected some of the suspects to lawyer up and recant their statements.
“Kaya ‘yung investigation na doon sa dulo, no, ay focused doon sa pagkuha ng mga object evidence at iba pang mga supporting evidence para ma— medyo ma-strengthen ‘yung mga statement ng mga witnesses,” Clavano said.
(That’s why the investigation in the latter part focused on getting object evidence and other supporting evidence to strengthen the statements of the witnesses.)
“Kung halimbawa nag recant ang isang witness pero ‘yung mga statements niya, ‘yung mga pinaliwanag niya doon sa affidavit niya, ay suportado naman doon sa ibang evidence, then ‘yung naging statement niya, ‘yung affidavit niya ay hindi na kailangan,” he added.
(For example, if a witness recants his statements, the explanation in his affidavit, but these are supported by other evidence, then his statement becomes immaterial.)
Meanwhile, in his message to the suspects, Clavano stressed that the agency never coerced or forced them and that all the DOJ wanted was to identify the mastermind.
“Napakalaki nitong kasong ito, napakaimportante nitong kaso na ito. Sa tingin niyo ba ilalagay namin sa panganib ang kaso para lang merong maituro?” he said.
(This case is big, it’s very important. Do you think we will jeopardize it just to point at someone.)
“Alam naman namin na maganda ang naging trato namin sa inyo, alam namin kung ano ‘yung hiningi niyo, binigay namin ‘yun. So bakit kayo bumaliktad? Bakit niyo kami tinalikuran? All we want here is for justice to be served,” he added.
(We know that we treated you well, we know that we gave you everything you asked for. So why did you change your tune? Why did you turn your back on us? All we want here is for justice to be served.)
Teves, for his part, has denied involvement in the recantations.
According to Clavano, the DOJ will also probe the alleged torture experienced by Rivero.
“Well, of course. Dahil lahat po ng allegation na ganyang uri ay kailangan talagang investigate. Kaya, of course no, dahil seryoso ‘yung mga allegations na ‘yan, we will have to investigate,” he said.
(Well, of course. Because such allegations must be investigated. Because the allegations are serious, we will have to investigate.)
Despite this, the spokesman said that all reports and information from the ground indicate that no such thing happened, adding that Remulla has been on top of the case since the start.
“Kaya wala talaga — sa tingin ko po, we’ve been there, the Secretary has been on top of the whole case ever since day one. Hindi naman siguro gagawin ‘yun sa ganitong klaseng situation na nakatingin talaga si Secretary Remulla,” Clavano said.
(I think we’ve been there, the Secretary has been on top of the case since day one. I don’t think they create such a situation under the eye of Secretary Remulla.)
Rivero also claimed that his family was taken by soldiers and cops from their home in March and then later placed under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation.
However, Clavano said the suspects had agreed to place their families under the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
“Ever since they were put into custody, ang unang tanong po namin ay kung gusto nilang ilagay yung pamilya nila sa WPP. At sila mismo, at the time, were very willing na ilagay ‘yung pamilya nila sa WPP,” he said.
Clavano said the agency may take certain actions if Rivero’s allegations prove true or false.
“At kung makita na walang ganong nangyari, meron tayong actions, no, na kailangan i-undertake. Kung makita naman na may ganon talagang nangyayari, may maltreatment, may torture, then of course lahat ng taong involved doon mananagot din,” he said.
(So if we find out that nothing happened, we have some actions we can undertake. If we see that there really was something like that, maltreatment, torture, then of course, all those involved will be held accountable.)
Clavano also said he believes there is no truth to allegations of Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, the widow of the slain governor, that “some people at the agency” were behind the recantations.
“Well, I don’t think there’s any truth to that… sa tingin ho natin na ‘yung mga nilagay nating mga agents at mga police officers dito sa mga kaso na ito ay the best of the best na talaga. At wala silang gustong, wala silang ibang gustong gawin kundi makuha talaga yung mastermind,” he said.
(Well, I don’t think there’s any truth to that. We think that all the agents and police officers placed on this case are the best of the best. And they only want to find the mastermind.)
Clavano said he also viewed the suspects getting private lawyers to be a good development.
“Sinabi ko na this is a good development, it’s a welcome development, para din po wala na talagang doubts doon sa mga rights or karapatan nung mga suspects o mga witnesses,” he said.
(I said that this is a good development, it’s a welcome development, so there will be no doubts as to the rights of the suspects or witnesses.)
“Pero ang sabi ko lang din po ay sana naman na ‘yung mga lawyers na ito, ‘yung mga abogado na ito, ay maging true sa kanilang profession na hindi sila mag papagamit para i-obstruct ang justice,” he added.
(But I also said that I hope these lawyers will be true to their profession and will not let themselves be used to obstruct justice.)
Meanwhile, Clavano said the agency is eyeing to move the 11 Degamo suspects to another facility as the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will be demolished soon.
Teves has yet to return to the country due to concerns for his safety. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., however, had said their best intelligence did not perceive any threat against him.
The lawmaker also reportedly sought political asylum in Timor-Leste but was rejected. He has appealed the denial.
“We think that the government of TImor-Leste anyway will stick with their initial decision to deny the petition or the request of Congressman Teves,” Clavano said. “Even without receiving any reports, we believe that the government of Timor-Leste will probably have the same stance.”—LDF, GMA Integrated News