Philippine lawmaker wanted over killing of Marcos ally named a ‘terrorist’ by govt

Jeoffrey Maitem and Dennis Jay Santos
Davao, Philippines
Philippine lawmaker wanted over killing of Marcos ally named a ‘terrorist’ by govt Policemen in uniform carry the flag-draped coffin of Roel Degamo, the assassinated governor of Negros Oriental province, during a funeral march in the town of Siaton in Negros Oriental, central Philippines, March 16, 2023.
Handout photo/Municipality of Siaton

The Philippines on Tuesday branded a congressman as a terrorist for allegedly masterminding the assassination of a political ally of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the killings of nine others during a commando-style attack in March.

The Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) said it had placed Arnolfo Teves, his brother and 10 associates on its list of wanted terrorists. Their bank accounts and other assets are now subject to forfeiture.

The congressman, who is on the run abroad, has been suspended from the legislature over his suspected role in the March 4 killings of Roel Degamo, who was the governor of Negros Oriental, a province in the central Visayas region, and the others. 

“The ATC, after a thorough examination of the evidence presented, has found probable cause to warrant the designation of Cong. Teves and his armed group as terrorists,” the council said in a statement dated July 26 but released to the media only on Tuesday.

Degamo’s killing was the third high-profile attack this year against a local government official in the Philippines, which has long been plagued by political violence between local elites.  

Teves has in various interviews with local media denied his involvement in the killing of the 56-year-old governor at his home in Negros Oriental.

Ten armed men entered Degamo’s residence and fatally shot him, along with two local officials and seven civilians. Police described it as a planned attack carried out with precision, and that it was over in minutes. 

Teves, who was Degamo’s chief political rival, left for the United States days before the shooting and has not returned since, despite appeals by his relatives to come home and clear his name.

The investigation into Teves began in April. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has said that all the activities leading up to the March 4 killings fell under the Anti-Terror Act, including recruitment, financing, and the purchase and distribution of firearms.

Levito Baligod, a lawyer who represents the victims of the attack, has claimed there was “concrete evidence” linking Teves to communist and terror groups on the southern island of Mindanao.

Teves struck a defiant tone on social media after his designation as a terrorist.

“They wanted me to link them to a terrorist group. There’s two people who were assigned to execute their affidavit about the matter,” he wrote on Twitter.

“To President Ferdinand Marcos and Remulla, I already knew this development was still in the planning stage. Let’s not forget I also have friends working in the government,” said Teves, who was last located in Timor-Leste.

Philippine local government officials have been targeted in a number of attacks this year.

In February, four policemen were killed and three others, including a provincial governor, were wounded in an ambush on Mindanao. Days earlier, gunmen disguised as police officers killed a vice-mayor and five of his companions in northern Nueva Vizcaya province. 

Signed into law by then-President Rodrigo Duterte in July 2020, human rights groups have criticized the Anti-Terror Act as a means to stifle dissent. The law gives authorities power to designate any individual or group a terrorist on mere suspicion.

Despite petitions against it, the Supreme Court has ruled that the legislation is constitutional.

Froilan Gallardo and Richel V. Umel contributed to this report from Cagayan de Oro city, southern Philippines.


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