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MANILA, Philippines – Embattled Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. tried to play it cool in front of the media in his first press conference – done remotely – since the Philippine government declared him a terrorist.
He even joked about it numerous times.
“Maybe I’ll put it in my CV (curriculum vitae),” he said in the virtual briefing on Tuesday afternoon, August 1.
“I know they want to freeze my assets, so that I won’t be able to move. I wasn’t born yesterday,” he added. “Maybe they should buy a big freezer, so that [all my assets] could fit.”
Teves is among the 13 people designated as terrorists in a 10-page resolution of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) released to the public on Tuesday morning, in connection with the assassination of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo in March. (Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article said Degamo was killed in February. This has been corrected.)
The ATC said behind the attack was the “Teves Terrorist Group,” led by Teves, while his brother Pryde Henry and former policeman Nigel Electona supposedly provided material support.
“Let’s check with the Securities and Exchange Commission if a Teves Terrorist Group is registered there,” he joked. “But, seriously, there’s no such thing.”
Shooting in all directions
Before the conference started, Teves asked the media to take notice of his new Zoom background, which plastered numerous hashtags relating to current issues hounding the government, and the supposed “media blackout” against those.
While he tried to come across as cheerful despite the ATC’s move, Teves did not miss a beat in criticizing as many people as he could, something that he has been doing in weeks past.
He attacked or took a swipe at numerous people, including:
- President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
- First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos
- Department of Justice Secretary Boying Remulla
- Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos
- House Speaker Martin Romualdez
- House ethics committee chairman Felimon Espares
- His colleagues in the House as a whole
- Mainstream media
Teves said that instead of persecuting him, Marcos and his Cabinet secretaries should focus on attending to the pressing issues he enumerated through his Zoom background: corruption, rising prices of commodities, expensive cost of electricity, and the proliferation of Philippine offshore gaming operators, among others.
He posed a blind item about the first couple’s supposed involvement with a certain “Bibot Nolan,” but did not elaborate.
Teves called out Remulla, whom he refers to as “Bondying,” for supposedly spewing lies and being selective in the investigation into Degamo’s killing. Remulla previously denied Teves was being politically persecuted.
Teves sounded the alarm over the joint venture between Speaker Romualdez’s holding firm Prime Media and news outlet ABS-CBN, and criticized the media for supposedly not asking more questions about it.
Teves berated Espares for not giving him the chance to be represented in the House ethics committee investigation against him. He has been suspended twice for defying the chamber’s orders to return home, and is on the verge of expulsion – something that has never happened in Congress.
Teves’ lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said the terrorist tag imposed on Teves was an overreaction by the ATC.
“We are now studying our legal options, including a delisting under the IRR (implementing rules and regulations). In lieu of the urgency of the situation, we might resort to judicial action in order to correct this travesty of justice,” Topacio said.
Teves is already a congressman in 2020 when the House passed the Anti-Terrorism Act, which formed the ATC. Congressional records show he did not cast a vote when the bill was being deliberated.
He claimed he no longer remembers discussions on the measure, but Teves now expressed concerns about its risks after being on the receiving end of the terrorist label.
“This is very dangerous if the law will be weaponized, because this can be used against political enemies, even with just an accusation and no proof,” Teves said.
But the suspended lawmaker is hopeful that the international community will further take notice of his case. He once applied for asylum in the small country of Timor-Leste, but got rejected.
“This terrorist label will further help my case, because people in other countries are not stupid. It will magnify [the government’s] political persecution [against me],” he added. – Rappler.com