Teves ready to return to PH, face accusations but…
MANILA, Philippines — Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo “Arni” Teves Jr. is ready to return to the Philippines and face allegations that he was behind the brazen killing of Gov. Roel Degamo, but his legal team said Monday that the security of the congressman and his family needs to be ensured first.
Teves’ lawyers emphasized that the security of the lawmaker and his family is now a “big concern” following “recent developments” in which, according to Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, the rights of his client and the people associated with the congressman were “trampled upon.”
“Definitely, he intends to return to clear his name… However, in light of recent developments where the rights, not [just] of Cong. Teves but of others associated with him were trampled upon, may malaking concern na sa security niya (there’s a big concern on his security),” Topacio said during the weekly Pandesal Forum in Quezon City.
Atty. Toby Diokno, who was also in the press conference and introduced as Teves’s childhood friend, echoed Topacio’s statement reiterating that the beleaguered lawmaker wants to come home to the Philippines to answer the mounting accusations against him.
“We just have to secure his safety and the safety of his family before he could really decide when to return. It’s just a matter of when. If he will return, yes, he will return. It’s just a matter of when,” Diokno added.
Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez urged Teves to return to the Philippines to respond to the allegations, noting that the Negros Oriental representative’s authority to travel to the United States was only valid from February 28 to March 9.
Romualdez also called for a House probe into the “highly suspicious” absence of five of the six police escorts of Degamo when he was assassinated on March 4.
Topacio said they welcome the chamber’s inquiry if there is a commitment that it would be “impartial.”
“A first good question to ask is why Gov. Degamo had no security? That is one thing you cannot blame on Cong. Teves. Police, because escorts are controlled by the Philippine National Police (PNP), and by extension, the PNP is under the Department of the Interior and Local Government,” he said partly in Filipino.
Topacio argued that Teves had “no hand” in the lack of security personnel around Degamo when he was killed inside his residence.
“I think the proper person to be asked would be from the governor’s side. We have no hand in his security detail. We are also questioning that kung bakit biglang nawala (why they suddenly did not report for duty). They’re supposed to be with either the PNP or the military, so bakit nawala (why were they absent)? It’s also a big question for us,” he said.
But PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. has urged the concerned police escorts of Degamo to explain, noting that they are also puzzled about why they did not report for duty on March 4.
‘For Speaker’s ears only’
Topacio said Teves is still in the United States for a stem cell procedure.
Topacio also revealed that he had reached out to Romualdez to relay matters from Teves which are “for his ears only.”
He further said that the expiration of Teves’ authority to travel will only warrant administrative sanctions on the part of the House leadership, at most, since it does not “detract from the right of the citizen to travel.”
House Secretary General Reginald Velasco said the congressman had sought to extend his stay abroad until April 9.
Last March 10, the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group raided three of Teves’ properties and later announced the confiscation of several firearms and assorted ammunition.
The raids, according to police, were in connection with the complaints filed against the congressman for allegedly ordering a string of murders in Negros Oriental in 2019.
However, Topacio asserted that the search warrant application and implementation were “highly illegal and irregular” as he alleged that the firearms seized from the congressman’s properties were planted.
He also said naming Teves as a mastermind in the Degamo slay was done prematurely and without basis.
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