JUSTICE Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Monday attributed the delay in the formal filing of a criminal complaint against suspended Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves in connection with the killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and nine others last March 4 to the sudden decision of several suspects not to cooperate.
Remulla, however, assured that a formal complaint will be filed against Teves before the DOJ on Wednesday and expressed optimism that even without Teves’ participation in the preliminary investigation, the case would be elevated before the trial court soon.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) chief said the suspects, who were supposed to serve as witnesses as well, decided to lawyer up when the investigators were already zeroing in on Teves’ role in the Degamo killing.
He added that the said suspects previously gave authorities “a very good picture of what happened” following the killing of Degamo.
“Some of them have refused to speak already and they have not issued another statement and we suspect that they will change their statements later on and may make recantation of sorts. But we’re not afraid of that because everything was clearly given and said in front of counsel and other people,” Remulla stressed.
The suspects, he added, surrendered voluntarily to the military several days after the March 4 brutal attack and were later on transferred to the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for debriefing.
“But when we were already pursuing the participation of Congressman Teves…many of them have already lawyered up by this time. Meaning by lawyered up, they were provided with lawyers by some people who are paying for their lawyers, who were not there before and obviously some people are interested with the statements they want to give and now they don’t want to cooperate anymore with authorities,” Remulla recalled.
This prompted investigators, according to the DOJ chief, to review the case.
The DOJ secretary hinted of a possible conspiracy involving moneyed people to provide the suspects with private lawyers.
“But that will not stop us from filing the proper cases because the statements have been given much earlier, freely, with CCTV and cameras and in front of witnesses and PAO [Public Attorney’s Office] lawyers,” Remulla assured.
Remulla said the investigation remains open for other angles and possible witnesses.
It can be recalled that the DOJ has already indicted 11 suspects for Degamo’s murder.
They are now facing trial for 10 counts of murder, 13 counts of frustrated murder for the victims who sustained serious injuries and three (four counts) of attempted murder for the victims who sustained non-fatal injuries.
Teves, who has denied any involvement in the Degamo killing, has yet to return to the country after going to the United States last February 28 to undergo stem cell treatment.
He was supposed to return to the country on March 9.
Teves has expressed apprehension to return to the country due to alleged threats to his life.
He has been suspended as a member of the House due to his failure to return to work.
Remulla earlier reported that Teves tried to apply for political asylum in Timor Leste but it was denied. Instead, Timor Leste gave Teves five days to leave the country.
The lawmaker has filed a motion for reconsideration of the denial of his application for asylum.