MANILA — A Manila court deferred the arraignment on Wednesday of expelled Negros Oriental congressman Arnolfo Teves, Jr. and other accused in the murder of Governor Roel Degamo and nine others.
The arraignment at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 51 was moved to November 29 due to pending motions, according to Teves’ legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio.
The lawyer for Degamo family, Andrei Tagum, also confirmed this information.
"The arraignment of all the accused was moved to November 29. In legal effect, granted ‘yung motion to defer, not only because of that motion, but because of certain pending incidents that will need the resolution of the court before arraignment may proceed,” Topacio told the media.
The Teves camp had sought to defer the arraignment pending the results of their petition before for the review of the Department of Justice panel resolution in connection with Degamo’s murder.
“Contrary to what the [DOJ] Secretary has been saying… na we are avoiding legal processes… we are participating in all the legal processes,” Topacio said.
Manila RTC Branch 51 Presiding Judge Merianthe Pacita Zuraek also granted accused Marvin Miranda’s motion to quash information.
In a resolution issued Wednesday, she ordered the prosecution to conduct within 60 days a preliminary investigation into Miranda’s alleged involvement in Degamo’s murder.
Pending its results, Miranda shall remain in the custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
The DOJ previously amended the case it filed before the Manila RTC to include Miranda in the list of accused for multiple counts of murder, frustrated murder and attempted murder, after five fellow suspects claimed that he played an “indispensable” part in planning Degamo’s assassination.
Miranda, who was described as a long-time security aide and bodyguard of Teves, was tagged by the DOJ as one of the alleged masterminds in the killing.
For the lawyer of the slain governor’s family, the motions filed by the accused were merely “dilatory”.
"These are legal remedies that the lawyers wanted to explore. They wanted to explore the limits of the rules, of course. The legal remedies are there. But of course, we contend, we assert na hindi naman meritorious ‘yung motions nila. These are all dilatory. These are all unmeritorious. They will exploit the rules, they will even go up to the Supreme Court, but ultimately, justice will be served,” Tagum said.
"Of course Mayor Janice (Degamo) is really asking for justice. She really hopes that the proceedings will take a faster rate, but we have to yield to the demands of the rule of law and of course the rules of procedure,” he added.
Tagum also slammed the absence of Teves, who, according to the DOJ is in Timor-Leste.
"The mere fact that the congressman is hiding, that tells you a lot, right? He should be present here. He should face the courts, so that he can explain his side. If he’s really innocent, he should not be hiding," Tagum said.
Teves was recently seen in videos of his “chance encounter” with former Sen. Manny Pacquiao in the said country. Tagum said the encounter “must have been accidental."
The DOJ earlier said that the Philippine government would formally inform the United Nations about the standing arrest warrant against Teves.
“Job ba ng (UN) General Assembly na magbalik ng tao? Parang hindi yata,” Topacio said.
Asked whether Teves would return to the country to face the charges against him, Topacio said, “Not that I know of. But who knows? Things can change.”
Teves has denied involvement in the Degamo killing. He has refused to return to the Philippines due to alleged threats against his life.