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MANILA, Philippines – Is refusal to surrender grounds for designating or proscribing an individual under Republic Act No. 11479, or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020?
Justice Secretary Crispin “Boying” Remulla sketched a new novel use of the controversial law as a resource person at the Senate committee on public order’s hearing into the March 4 attack that killed Degamo and eight others on Monday, April 17.
Remulla said Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnie Teves could face proscription or designation because of his refusal to return to the country in the aftermath of the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo.
The House of Representatives already suspended Teves for refusing to return to duty after his leave of absence lapsed.
After the Senate hearing where Remulla raised the proscription issue, Teves told reporters, that his message to brother Pryde Henry and his parents is, “kung gusto ‘nyo na ako mamatay magsabi lang kayo uuwi ako. Ganon lang kasimple yun.” (If you want me to die, just tell me to come home. It will be that simple.)
Remulla was answering Senator Joel Villanueva’s question: In the Pamplona town killings, could the government use Section 25 of the law?
Section 25 lists the methods by which the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) could designate an individual or group as terrorist, one of the controversial law’s provisions that activists and civil society groups had challenged in the Supreme Court.
The High Court upheld as constitutional the arbitrary power of the ATC to designate without going to trial, based only on their own determination during proceedings held in secret, and without asking the designee for counter-evidence.
Responding to the question, Remulla said, “the activities that led to the killings of March 4, all are covered under the Anti-Terror Law: The recruitment, the financing, the purchase of firearms, the distribution of firearms.”
“Everything that transpired is actually has the hallmarks of terrorism in it,” he added.
He then explained why the DOJ didn’t use this for nine suspects in the daylight attack.
“When the cases were filed individually, we could not really file an anti-terror case immediately because it takes a lot of legal theory and a lot of research to be able to prove a terrorism case,” Remulla said.
“We are afraid right now that if we file a terrorism case based on the crimes that transpired, it may prejudice other convictions that may be secured easily, with the same punishment, for murder, multiple murder,” he added.
For Teves, however, Remulla said the government is thinking of designating him or proscribing him as a terrorist. To have him proscribed by the Court of Appeals or designated by the Anti-Terror Council.
His reason: “as a solution to this impasse” of Teves refusing to return to the Philippines.
But Remulla also told the Senate that Teves is not covered by any warrant of arrest.
Senate committee chairman Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said he spoke with Teves, who claimed his life would be in danger if he returned to the country.
Dela Rosa had earlier suggested a virtual appearance by Teves.
But after a letter of protest from Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, the governor’s widow, the committee unanimously voted to bar any virtual appearance by Teves.
DOJ Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano also told reporters in a Viber message that the department will initiate moves before the Court of Appeals for the proscription of Teves and his group as “Terrorist ” pursuant to the Anti-Terror Law or Section 4, 26 and 27of R.A. 11749.
Aside from those directly implicated in the actual attack, authorities have arrested Marvin Miranda, a military reservist and the congressman’s bodyguard.
Remula has described him as “the director, producer of the props, and casting director,” while Teves was the executive producer.
Miranda was arrested on June 29, 2020, for illegal possession of firearms in what police claimed was an assassination attempt.
Police and military forces on Friday morning, March 24 seized firearms and ammunition, and more than P18 million during a morning raid on an agribusiness compound and sugar mill registered to Henry, Arnie’s brother and the man who failed to defeat Degamo in the May 22 elections.
The chief of security of the agribusiness concern, Nigel Lagunay Electona, turned out to be a cop dismissed for an undetermined drug case in 2017.