MANILA — Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Tuesday said he was firm about designating suspended Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo "Arnie" Teves Jr. as a terrorist amid allegations of the embattled lawmaker's involvement in the murder of Governor Roel Degamo.
Remulla slammed Teves' remark that the investigation on the Degamo slay case has become a "circus," saying that the murder of the governor and 8 others was not funny.
Teves, in a virtual presser on Monday, had said: "Unang-una, ang pakiramdam ko sa totoo lang, nakakatawa… Nagiging perya na siya, [it's] becoming a circus. Paano ka magiging terorista kung hindi ka pa nga nakakasuhan?"
“There is nothing funny about 9 people getting killed," Remulla said on Tuesday. "The people are terrorized and are living in fear as long as he is not in legal custody. We are guarding against that capability to wreak havoc and destruction to people’s lives,” he told reporters.
Remulla also said Teves may face several charges of multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder, and multiple attempted murder, on top of another complaint against him for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
He also said the fact that Negros Oriental's chief executive was killed while in service "is not funny at all."
“That is not funny at all, considering that the highest ranked local official was killed in his own home while serving his constituents, by highly trained gunmen recruited for that purpose. Was what happened to Gov. Degamo funny in any way?” he said.
In the first day of the Senate Committee on Public Order's hearings on the Degamo slay, Remulla said Teves' possible terrorist tag was an attempt to break the impasse on the lawmaker's reluctance to return to the Philippines.
He also noted that some of the activities that led to Degamo's Mar. 4 murder were "all covered" under the Anti-Terrorism Act, including "the recruitment, the financing, the purchase of firearms, [and] the distribution of firearms."
Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos agreed with Remulla's views.
"Tamang tama po itong batas na ito dahil dito nakapalaoob ang lahat na dapat nating gawin — tanggalan ng passport, lahat, talagang ipitin na po. Kaya angkop na angkop ang anti-terror law sa mga nangyaring ito. Talagang 100 percent agree ako rito," he said at the same committee hearing.
Teves' legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio said the Anti-Terror Act should not be weaponized against his client.
"By using the Anti-Terrorism Act against a person who is not a terrorist, and not for the purpose for which the law was enacted, would distort the law and pervert the ends of justice. But if Mr. Remulla wants to show the world how the Department of Justice of the Philippines works at present, of course nothing can stop him from wielding his new-found power. As the song goes, if it makes him happy," Topacio said.