National Bureau of Investigation Region VII Director Rennan Augustus Oliva on Wednesday bared that he was threatened by suspended Negros Oriental Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. after he led a raid in an online cockfighting livestreaming hub in Cebu.
Oliva faced the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs to affirm the statements of Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo linking the Teves family to the operations of e-sabong, which is considered illegal in the Philippines.
Three days after the NBI conducted the raid which was witnessed by a relative of one of the subjects of the operation and the barangay officials of Calajo-an in Minglanilla, Cebu, Oliva said he received a call from then-Assistant Regional Director Noel Bocaling and was told that Teves wanted to talk to him about the raid against an e-sabong operation which they conducted.
Although he told Bocaling that the case was already filed in court, Oliva said his colleague insisted on him meeting Teves.
At around 3:41 p.m. on September 20, 2022, Oliva said Teves together with a certain Tomasino Aledro and their entourage arrived at the NBI office.
“The opening statement of Cong. Teves to me was that he was not connected to e-sabong activities and that he had already delegated that to his friends. He then proceeded to ask me who authorized the operation which I told him it was the director, in line with the order of our president to stop e-sabong activities,” Oliva said.
Oliva said he informed Teves that the cockpit which they raided was not registered with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and even those registered with the state regulator were heeding the order of the president to stop the e-sabong operations.
“I was then surprised about his response to me. He told me he will sue my men for stealing P7 million at the cockpit. He continued to say that he will spare me from the case if I make it negative of any incoming operations against e-sabong,” Oliva said.
According to the NBI officer, the seized items during the operations include streaming paraphernalia, computers, and P2.6 million cash only.
“I just laughed because I told him you cannot [make] me betray my oath as a law enforcement officer… I told him frankly, ‘If you want to file the case, you file the case against me. I will answer it because it is not true. I am not afraid,’” said Oliva.
While they secured a valid search warrant for their operations, Oliva said the case that the Cebu Provincial Prosecutor’s Office had filed was quashed by Naga, Cebu Regional Trial Court Branch 76 on the grounds that the acts charged in the information does not fall within the acts prescribed under Presidential Decree 1602 in relation to Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
They filed a motion for reconsideration before the court to argue that there was a search warrant from another court for the same violation and that the Cebu Provincial Prosecutor’s Office had sustained their recommendation, Oliva said, but still their motion was junked due to violation of five-day rule.
This prompted them to refile a case before the Cebu Provincial Prosecutor Office on January 5,2023.
“On February 28, 2023, five months after we raided the e-sabong operation, a case was filed against me and my men before the Office of the Ombudsman for Visayas for irregularity in the service of the search warrant and fabricated a story that we stole P9M cash—from P7 million to P9 million… Video was spread on social media showing spliced portions of CCTV footage. They intentionally omitted the inventory conducted by the arresting officer in the presence of the lawyers as well as barangay officials,” he said.
To refute the allegations, Oliva said they came out with a press release.
GMA News Online has contacted the Teves camp for reaction. His lawyer Ferdinand Topacio told GMA News Online that they "have no comment at this time since we have not been monitoring the hearings in detail."
Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, chairman of the panel, expressed dismay over the confrontation between Teves and Oliva.
“Alam mo kung ako sinabihan no’n sagutin ko rin siya, ‘How dare you? Who you para sabihan mo ako ng gano'n?’ It’s very bad. Akala ko pulis lang ang kaya niyang takut-takutin. Pati NBI pala sinasabihan ng gano'n,” Dela Rosa said.
(You know if he said that to me, I will reply, 'How dare you? Who you to tell me this?' It's very bad. I thought it's only the police that he is threatening. Even the NBI is threatened.)
He then lamented the state of the criminal justice system in the Philippines where members of the judiciary are also being influenced by syndicates.
“Ganito takbo ng sindikato eh… Kapag hindi ko maareglo ang complainant, aregluhin ko ‘yung police. Kapag umayaw ang pulis… next na lalapitan ng sindikato ‘yung piskalya, ‘yung prosecutor handling the case… Kapag hindi naareglo 'yung prosecutor… buhusan ko ng malaking pera itong judge na may hawak ng kasong ito, aregluhin ko ito,” said Dela Rosa.
(This is how syndicates work. If I cannot strike a deal with the complainant, I will talk to the police. If the police say no, the syndicate will approach the fiscal or prosecutor handling the case. If I cannot strike a deal with the prosecutor, I will pour much money into the hands of the judge who is handling the case so this can be fixed.)
“I’m not specifying any particular judge and any particular piskal… but it is really happening in the Philippines kaya ayan po ang napakasaklap na katotohanan,” he said.
(I'm not specifying any particular judge and any particular fiscal. But it is really happening in the Philippines and that is the sad truth.)
The former police chief-turned-lawmaker also lamented that law enforcers are becoming the “whipping boy” of the criminal justice system, where they are always being blamed for cases of injustices.
“Ang hirap ng buhay natin. Kaya ngayon senador na ako, hanapan natin ng paraan 'yan. Magtutulungan tayo na bago ang sistemang 'yan. Para ‘yung culture of impunity, ‘yung reign of terror na nangyayari sa isang lugar na hinahawakan ng politiko na walang pakundangan na gumawa ng violence ay mahinto natin 'yan. ‘Wag natin pabayaan,” he said.
(It's a hard life. That is why now that I am a senator, let us find ways to fix that. Let us help each other to change the system. This is so that the culture of impunity, the reign of terror happening in an area where a politician has no qualms resorting to violence can be stopped. Let us not be complacent.)
Siaton Mayor Fritz Diaz also shared at the Senate hearing that one week after slain Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo assumed office, they sought help from authorities in Manila to stop the e-sabong operations in the province.
“Kung hindi po ma-stop ang online sabong, mamatay kami doon sa Negros Oriental. 'Yun ang exact words ni Gov. Degamo sa kanila, sir…That’s the reason galit na galit 'yung mga Teves kay Gov kasi pinatigil 'yung isa sa faucet of money nila sir,” Diaz said.
(If online sabong cannot be stopped, we will die in Negros Oriental. Those were the exact words of Gov. Degamo, sir. That's the reason why the Teveses are so angry at Gov because he stopped one of the faucets of their money, sir.)
The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs is conducting a hearing into the killing of Degamo.
The governor was shot and killed by armed men on March 4 while he was distributing aid to beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) program at his residence in Barangay San Isidro in Pamplona, Negros Oriental.
Teves has yet to return to the country. —with a report from Joahna Lei Casilao/KG, GMA Integrated News