Philippine lawmaker accused of organising governor’s murder
A Philippine lawmaker has been accused of organising the murder of a provincial governor last month, officials said Monday, after an investigation into one of the country’s deadliest political attacks in years.
Gunmen wearing military-style uniforms shot and killed Roel Degamo, governor of the central province of Negros Oriental, and eight others in Degamo’s home.
Police have arrested 11 people over the audacious attack in the sugarcane-growing heartland of the Philippines. A twelfth suspect was killed in a shoot-out.
Arnolfo Teves, who represents a Negros Oriental district in the national Congress, was alleged to be the mastermind of the shooting, Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla told reporters.
Teves, who is overseas, has denied involvement in Degamo’s murder.
The congressman’s brother, Henry Teves, was unseated as governor of Negros Oriental after the election commission declared in September that Degamo was the rightful winner of the 2022 election following a vote count.
The Supreme Court upheld the decision in February.
Arnolfo Teves’ longtime bodyguard Marvin Miranda allegedly recruited the shooters, Remulla said, likening the crime to a movie.
“Marvin was the director, producer of the props and casting director. He recruited the men,” he said.
“Congressman Teves was the producer or executive producer of the whole production.”
Arnolfo Teves could face charges for murder and illegal possession of firearms once a preliminary investigation wrapped up, Remulla said.
He has been suspended from the House of Representatives for 60 days after failing to return home and report for work after his authority to travel abroad expired.
His lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, accused the justice department and the police of subjecting suspects in the case to “improper pressure and influence” to make them testify against his client.
“These acts evince not just the weakness of the government’s case, but an illegal scheme to manipulate the evidence to unfoundedly incriminate a person,” Topacio said in a message sent to AFP.
Degamo campaigned for President Ferdinand Marcos when he ran for the nation’s top job last year.
Marcos has condemned the “dastardly and heinous” assassination of his political ally and has sent his top officials, including police and military chiefs, to investigate.
The Philippines has a long history of attacks on politicians.
In the bloodiest politically motivated ambush on record, the leaders of a powerful southern clan and about two dozen followers were sentenced to life in prison for a 2009 attack on supporters of a gubernatorial election rival in Maguindanao province.
Fifty-eight people were killed in the attack, including the politician’s wife and relatives, along with 32 journalists and media workers who were covering the race.