Senate of the Philippines

‘Arnie wanted our business,’ say Dumaguete survivors of slay try

Ryan Macasero

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‘Arnie wanted our business,’ say Dumaguete survivors of slay try

SURVIVORS. Jason Ong and Sandy Tinguha recount nearly being assassinated at their restaurant in Dumaguete City

Senate of the Philippines YouTube screengrab

Entrepreneurs Jason Ong and Sandy Tinguha tell the Senate that local police and health officials dropped from records the name of the cop suspect, who still remains on duty at the Western Visayas PNP Drug Enforcement Group

MANILA, Philippines – Owners of a small tocino restaurant in Dumaguete who survived an assassination attempt in March 2021 told the Senate on Tuesday, April 18, that “Arnie” – referring to suspended Negros Oriental 3rd District Congressman Arnulfo “Arnie” Teves – “wanted their business.”

Meron siyang Arnie’s Chicken. Gusto niyang kunin business namin tocinohan sir (he has this business called ‘Arnie’s Chicken’),” Jason Ong said during the second day of Senate inquiry into the killing of slain Governor Roel Degamo and dozens of other Negros Oriental killings

Ong and Sandy Tinguha, owners of Mang Atchan’s Spiced Tocino, were two of 60 people brought by Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, the governor’s widow, to testify about their experiences with killings in Negros Oriental.

The Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by former national police chief, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, called the hearing.

‘Arnie wanted our business,’ say Dumaguete survivors of slay try
Front businesses?

Killing attempts over small businesses may seem an ineffective, dangerous growth strategy.

But Siaton Mayor Fritz Diaz, a nephew of the slain governor, told dela Rosa that the attacks were not just about competition among small chicken joints.

He accused the fugitive congressman of needing small businesses to legitimize his alleged illegal online gambling businesses.

“He needs these businesses to wash his money,” Fritz told the Senate committee.  

The committee remembers unanimously barred the congressman from making a virtual appearance at the hearing.

The House of Representatives earlier suspended Teves for refusing to return after the lapse of his leave of absence.

The suspended lawmaker told reporters after the hearing that he would not come home because of threats to his life.

SENATE HEARING. Senator Ronald dela Rosa, chairperson of the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, presides over the public inquiry into the brazen assassination of incumbent Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo.

Many of the other speakers who tagged Teves as the one who ordered the killings of their loved ones, cited political or land grabbing as the motive for killings. 

But Ong and Tinguha were the first small business owners to testify that they believe Teves ordered the attack on them. 

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What happened?

According to a news report by DigiCast Negros, the suspect shot but missed Tinguha who was working the cash register.

Ong told senators that he threw a tray of tocino as soon as he saw the attacker shoot Tinguha.

Ong then ran to a nearby gas station, then to his house, where the gunman followed him and a scuffle ensued.

Kinuha ko yung baril at pinutok dito sa leeg, sir (I snatched his gun and shot him in the neck),” Ong told Dela Rosa. 

Ong turned the gun at the getaway driver, but missed.  

His staff and people from the community came to help. They attacked the gunman to the point where he was comatose for over two weeks.

Still a cop

During the Senate hearing, the pair identified the gunman as Noel Alabata, who is still currenty an active police officer.

According Colonel Alex Recinto, Negros Oriental’s current police director, Alabata is assigned the PNP Drug Enforcement Group in the Western Visayas. 

The reason: Ong’s case against the cop is still ongoing, while Tinguha’s was dismissed after one hearing. 

Both resource persons said anomalous police response to their reports led to the legal outcome.

Ong and Tinguha said the assault was just the start of their troubles.

When the businessmen first went to seek help from the police, cops at the police station allegedly told them that the attack was ordered by Degamo. 

Alabata’s name was allegedly changed in the police reports and medical records twice, the entrepreneurs said.

First from Noel Alabata, to a “Mr. X” then to a certain “Alfonso Idinatan.”

Yung mga piskal at attorney, at judge, takot sila… kay Arnie Teves (The fiscals, lawyers, and judge, they are afraid),” Tinguha told dela Rosa.

Tangled web

Ong claimed that Alabata was taking orders from Police Colonel Crisaleo Tolentino.

He identified the former Negros Oriental-based police officer as a henchman of Arnie Teves.

Tolentino is director of the Aklan provincial police office.

Panay News reports that Tolentino was chief of the Aviation Security Group in the Central Visayas before being assigned to his Aklan post in 2021.

The resource speakers also said the lawyer they approached to handle their case, Ronel Depalubos, turned out to be allegedly connected to Degamo’s rival, Pryde Henry Teves.

Pryde Henry, who tried but failed to unseat Degamo as governor in the May 22 elections, was at the Senate hearing but did not respond to the claims.

Ong alleged he paid Depalubos P50,000 in 2021 to handle his case.

The lawyer, he said, asked him to sign a desistance later. The document basically stated he would no longer sue the cop.  

He also said the lawyer warned him that if he pursued the case, Teves would come looking for both of them. 

A year after the incident, Depalubos served as Henry’s legal counsel when he served as governor of Negros Oriental in 2022. 

Tinguha sued Alabata for attempted murder, while Ong filed a case against the cop for attempted homicide. It was not mentioned who was the lawyer for the refiled cases.

More summons

Dela Rosa asked the PNP to summon Police Colonel Ramoncelio Sawan.

Sawan was chief of the Dumaguete City police at the time of the attack on Mang Atchan’s. Dela Rosa wants to question him for allegedly failing to arrest Alabata, and allowing the cop suspect to sleep in the police office.

He also asked the PNP to summon a certain “Colonel Lambert” who was allegedly with the CIDG at the time.

The cop allegedly refused to refile the case on behalf of the plaintiffs, even after then-president Rodrigo Duterte directed the PNP to do so.

The two businessmen said they sought assistance from Duterte and various national government agencies after the attack, but they did not receive much attention at the time.

The resource speakers requested the committee to also summon a “Dr. Leosa” of the Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital, where the gunman was confined for 17 days.

They want the senators to ask the doctor why the cop was allegedly allowed to change his name on the medical certificate.

Pryde Henry did not confirm or deny his involvement in the attack.


Ong and Tinguha’s story reflects dozens of other stories of victims of impunity in Negros Occidental.

Dela Rosa called the last five years a “reign of terror” in Negros Oriental, counting at least 500 killings, or an average of 100 unsolved killings per year.

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Victims detail Negros Oriental ‘reign of terror’ on 2nd day of Degamo inquiry

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Dela Rosa says the many victims’ who spoke painted a picture of a compromised local court system and police force, that allowed killings to go unabated in Negros Oriental for years. 

The committee will continue to hear testimonies from families of people killed in Negros Oriental on the third day of the hearing on Wednesday, April 19. –

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Nobuhiko Matsunaka


Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at