Credit to Author: Emmanuel Tupas| Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2023 00:00:00 +0800
MANILA, Philippines — Charges for possession of illegal firearms and explosives have been filed against former Bayawan City mayor Pryde Henry Teves before the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Philippine National Police (PNP) reported yesterday.
The criminal complaints filed against Teves last Monday are in connection with the seizure of a cache of firearms, ammunition and explosive materials unearthed last weekend from his five-hectare property used as a sugar mill in Santa Catalina, Negros Oriental.
Arrested at the scene and subsequently subjected to inquest proceedings were Jeson Timtim, Dionilo Mayagma Jr. and Nigel Electona, chief security officer at the sugar mill compound operated by the HDJ Agri-Venture Corp., in which Teves is reportedly the president.
In a text message yesterday, Col. Jean Fajardo, PNP spokesperson, said Pryde Henry Teves was also charged “since he was the subject of the search warrant.”
Since Teves was not present during the raid, his case will undergo a preliminary investigation, said Fajardo.
His elder brother, suspended Negros Oriental third district Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr., is facing similar charges over separate seizures of illegal guns, bullets and explosives in warranted searches of the congressman’s other properties in the same province.
The congressman’s sons, Kurt Mattew and Axel, are charged with several others in that case.
In both cases, the complaints were filed by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), which conducted the raids – first on March 10 in the properties of the congressman in Basay town and Bayawan City in which six people were arrested, and then last March 24 at the estate of the former governor in which the three other accused were nabbed.?
Citing a resolution from the DOJ, Fajardo said state prosecutors found probable cause to indict Electona, Timtim and Mayagma for violating provisions of Republic Act 10591, the Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition.
Earlier, the PNP official said Electona allegedly played a major role in planning the assassination of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo, who was attacked by gunmen at his residential compound in Pamplona town last March 4.
Eight other people, including capitol officials, were killed and more than a dozen others wounded in the incident. Electona’s link to the bloodbath was uncovered when police found in his house photographs of Degamo, his family and the gate of their Pamplona residence as well as sketches and routes to the property.
Interviewed by CNN Philippines, PrydeTeves said he has signed a waiver of confidentiality, opening up several important documents, as he aims to prove his innocence of the charges filed against him.
“We are in the business of producing sugar, we are in the business of farming. We are not in the business of guns,” he said, noting that the waiver of confidentiality he signed was dated March 28.
Teves said the waiver includes bank statements, phone records, emails and logs.
“Hopefully, it gives enough information to clear my name, for the sake of my direct family,” he said.
He gave assurance that he would make himself available to the investigation and that his only hope is that it would be “exhaustive so my name would be cleared through all my transactions.”
“I do not delete my messages. I just want… so the investigation will be faster,” he added.
Fajardo said they welcomed the younger Teves’ willingness to cooperate in the investigation, noting that he has a lot of explaining to do over the “loose firearms” that were buried in his property.
“Guns were not the only items found, but improvised explosive devices and their components.”
Meanwhile, Fajardo also renewed the PNP’s call for the suspended Negros lawmaker to return to the country and face the charges against him.
The elder Teves has refused to come back from abroad, insisting his life is in danger despite assurances from authorities that he will be provided sufficient security upon his return.
Apart from firearms raps, the suspended congressman is facing murder charges over the killing of three people in 2019 in his province.
“We continue to appeal to Cong. Arnie Teves that, like his brother, hopefully he faces these cases filed against him,” Fajardo said.
Yesterday, lawyer Mike Mella, who represents the three accused, said they plan to file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), claiming police have been forcing the three to point an accusing finger at the Teves brothers.
“They told me that they were being pressured to admit that Congressman Teves and his brother Governor Pryde ordered them to bury the firearms recovered during the raid,” Mella told reporters.
“They did not submit to the pressure and, upon my advice, I just asked them to remain silent,” he added, referring to Electona, Timtim and Mayagma who are detained at the PNP-CIDG headquarters.
Mella said that they plan to file a complaint with the CHR “as soon as possible,” as Electona told him that several “malicious” cases would be filed against him and the others if he did not cooperate.
The lawyer said police allegedly subjected the three individuals to psychological and emotional pressure, and police visited them four times in one day.
The legal team to which Mella belongs has made the same allegations against police earlier this month in the 2019 murder cases against Rep. Teves.
After claiming that the lawmaker’s secretary Hannah Mae Soberano and other suspects were allegedly being pressured to testify against lawmaker Teves, the legal team has sought the CHR’s intervention.
In another development, lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, who represents Arnolfo Teves, said their camp was still trying to decide whether or not to submit a counter affidavit in the ongoing preliminary investigation of criminal cases related to the 2019 murders.
Addressing reporters after yesterday’s preliminary investigation in one of the cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, Topacio said: “It is possible that we will not submit a counter-affidavit, but we will look into it.”
He claimed that the CIDG hardly presented new evidence, but would examine it just the same and inform DOJ prosecutors if there would be no need to submit a counter affidavit.
The DOJ is currently tracing the pattern of violence that has affected Negros Oriental over the years by examining various cases and building up the evidence needed to file charges against those responsible for the bloodshed.
Earlier, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said they had listed about 17 names of people possibly part of a political mafia of sorts. — With Ralph Edwin Villanueva, Neil Jayson Servallos