MANILA — Negrenses, officials and ordinary residents aired out their grievances against the controversial Teves brothers of Negros Oriental during a Senate hearing on Tuesday.
Siaton, Negros Oriental Mayor Fritz Diaz presented to the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee a “mañanita” video of policemen entertaining a seemingly surprised Congressman Arnolfo Teves, Jr.
Diaz, a relative of slain Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, said such treatment was just one proof of how local policemen in their province regard the Teves family due to the alleged perks that they receive from the congressman and his family.
“Kaya walang naso-solve na killings sa Negros Oriental is because of the enforcers. Pero karamihan ng may rank na enforcers bayad ng Teves using gambling money,” Diaz said.
“'Pag tinukoy bang Teves, lahat ba sila?,” Senator JV Ejercito asked.
“It’s Arnie and Henry, sir,” Diaz claimed, referring to Rep. Teves and former Negros Oriental governor Pryde Henry Teves.
The Teveses‘ money, according to Diaz, comes from online cockfighting and small-town lottery, including e-sabong, which continues to operate reportedly in Negros Oriental even if the previous administration already ordered the halt of such operations in the country.
“Nang nanalo si (Pangulong Marcos Jr.), stop na lahat. Sila, patuloy, lantaran, sir. Lantaran pa rin. Wala, tahimik lang ang enforcers,” Diaz claimed.
Police Major General Jonnel Estomo, the PNP's deputy chief for operations, expressed disappointment and said that it’s time to bring back the death penalty.
“Siguro tama si Senator Padilla, dapat pag gumawa ng kalokohan ang pulis, death penalty,” he said.
Newly-installed police provincial director Alex Gruce Recinto said they also sacked 221 Negros policemen who are now undergoing retraining.
Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, widow of slain Governor Degamo, meanwhile gave a glimpse as to why they fear the Teveses.
“May mga problema sa (Department of Agriculture) Negros Oriental ... i-install ba naman beneficiaries na sila (Teves) ang pipili … Tulungan niyo po kami … We are faced by moneyed people fueled by e-sabong, STL and maybe even drugs,” Mayor Degamo said.
Dela Rosa meantime asked: “Ganun ka powerless si then Governor Roel Degamo na ginaganun-ganun na lang kayo doon?”
“The governor is the highest position of the province, but the gambling lord has more money than the provincial government allotment by the national government, intel funds,” Mayor Degamo pointed out.
But Henry Teves maintained he has no connections to gambling.
“I'm not involved in any gaming, any numbers game. In fact, I already gave my bank waiver on bank secrecy to open my bank account. Makita kung biglang yumaman ... nandun [ang] property acquisition. I can assure you none of that came from illegal activities,” he said.
Tuesday’s public hearing saw a long line of Negrenses who were asking for the Senate’s immediate intervention amid the supposed threats from the Teves family.
There were stories of arrested murder suspects—said to have Teves connections—whose names were altered; had filed cases withdrawn by their hired lawyer; had missing or languishing filed cases; or harassed or killed individuals who either refused to side with the Teveses or had criticized the powerful political family.
Monserat Tabacug, mother of slain local candidate Michael Dungog, shared how his son was killed, allegedly by the order of the Teveses.
“He met a single bullet in his head … As a mother, I could see that death is inevitable but the cause ... it is my fervent hope and prayer that justice will be served. Sana naman before I take my last breath, I will be able to see the killer put to death,” she said.
A son of a Department of Public Works and Highways official in Region 7 recalled that a board member was coerced by then-Mayor Henry Teves during a birthday party to join their political party.
Businessman Anthony Jason Ong, meanwhile, said Rep. Teves wanted to grab his tocino business.
Gina Palma, a staff member of Degamo, whose son was also killed, said: “Umiiyak ako dahil minsan nagsagutan kami ng asawa ko. Ako ang sinisisi kasi dahil sa trabaho ko namatay ang anak ko."
The widow of Dindo Generoso, a radio broadcaster who was killed after hitting the Teveses' environment-related project, lamented that they treated Pryde and the others as friends.
They even took care and accommodated Pryde each time the latter would visit Australia, she said.
“Para na 'tong killing fields e. Tuwing makikinig ka sa radio, maririnig mo araw-araw may patay,” Juanita said.
Dela Rosa noted the similarity of the fate of those who criticize or oppose the Teves family.
“Nakailang resource speaker na tayo ... Is this a coincidence na lahat ng kinausap ninyo na inimbitahan ninyo na pumunta na sa panig ninyo later on ay namamatay?... Hindi pumayag, namamatay,” Dela Rosa said.
CITED FOR CONTEMPT
The Senate committee cited in contempt Police Staff Sergeant Renevic Rizaldo, one of the sacked policemen who reportedly refused to write a blotter about the harassment complaint of Juwim Estiñoso, a local candidate in Negros Oriental.
Estiñoso was later on killed.
Rizaldo has admitted that he was a former member of Rep. Teves' security detail.
Former CIDG director Hansel Marantan, who investigated killings in Negros Oriental, vented his frustration to the sacked policemen whom he said did not help him when he visited Negros Oriental several times for his probe.
Senator Francis Tolentino pushed for more support to complainants.
“Compile the cases folder by folder pagkatapos po we will ask the Department of Justice tomorrow ano nangyari sa case isa-isa ... Kapag nabuo ang buong istorya, we can aspire to achieve justice," said Tolentino, who sits as chairman of the Senate justice committee.
Justice Undersecretary Jesse Andres said the DOJ can work on the preliminary investigation into the killings and Negros Oriental, including the protection of witnesses.
"I heard many instances where the complainants and the victims would need the assistance of the Witness Protection Program. I am here to represent the WPP under the DOJ. If there is a need, to take in people ... to assure their safety, the DOJ will also be willing to help," the official said.
Dela Rosa, meanwhile, denied allegations that he is biased toward the Teves family because his wife is related to the political clan.
The senator clarified that while his wife's aunt is married to a Teves, the said relative belongs to the other Teves clan and has no relation at all to their patriarch, former Negros Oriental Congressman Herminio Teves.
The panel will continue its investigation on the spate of local executives' killings on Wednesday.