Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Friday said detained suspects were allegedly offered P8 million each to recant their testimonies that implicated Rep. Arnolfo A. Teves Jr. in the March 4 killing of Gov. Roel Degamo and nine other people.
“That was the intelligence information we received inside the National Bureau of Investigation on the money being offered so that they would recant their original statements,” Remulla said during an interview with CNN Philippines.
Remulla said the money was offered by former Department of Justice undersecretary Reynante Orceo, the legal counsel of Marvin Miranda, who has been tagged as “co-conspirator” with Teves in the killings.
“If I am not mistaken, the first report that we received was that he was offering P8 million each so that they become calm and trust his principal, who is a congressman,” Remulla said.
Orceo denied the allegation as “pure hearsay.”
“As lawyers, which Sec. Remulla is supposedly aware of, such a statement is devoid of evidentiary weight or probative value,” Orceo said in a statement.
“We only represent Miranda, and all the other accused are represented by different counsels. The recantations of all the other accused should be attributed to their respective counsels, not to us,” he added.
There are 11 detained suspects at the NBI. Aside from Miranda, they are Rogelio C. Antipolo Jr., Winrich B. Isturis, Joven C. Javier, Romel A. Pattaguan, Eulogio L. Gonyon Jr., John Louie L. Gonyon, Jhudiel R. Rivero, Joric G. Labrador, Benjie Rodriguez, and Dahniel P. Lora.
Danny Villanueva, lawyer of five detained suspects, said the accusation was “highly impossible to happen.”
“All of the accused are currently in the detention center of the NBI and they have very limited space there,” Villanueva said.
Ten of the detained suspects have been reported to have recanted their original testimonies, except for Miranda.
“It is not known if the offer was accepted but that’s the report we received,” Remulla said.
The DOJ chief said, however, that only one recantation is on record and has been filed in court.
Remulla admitted there was nothing he could do to stop Orceo from seeing Miranda at the NBI detention facility.
“They are following the law. The right to counsel is there. That’s the absolute right provided by the Constitution. So, we have to obey the Constitution. They cannot be isolated and without means of communication. We cannot do that. We should not do that because that is against the International Humanitarian Law,” he said. See full story online at manilastandard.net)
He also said that the NBI lacked the facilities to keep the suspects separated from one another.
“They are co-mingling with each other, that’s why they managed to talk,” he said.
He said courts generally frown upon recantations.
“First of all the 10 recantations are not regularly happening. It’s actually a good way to see how conspiracies work. It just strengthens our case that this was a very big conspiracy from the very beginning and there is a conductor waving his magic around so that everyone would say only one thing,” he said.
At the same time, Remulla said that since the trial against the 11 suspects is about to start at a Manila regional trial court (RTC), their lawyers have been employing delaying tactics.
Ont May 31, the trial court had to postpone the scheduled arraignment on the motion of the suspects to quash the criminal charges, he said.
Another delay, he said, was the petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by Rivero for his wife and two sons to be freed from government custody.
However, Remulla said Rivero’s wife and two sons voluntarily left the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program and thanked the government for its assistance.
“This means it is moot and academic but the petition was still filed,” he said.
“So, they are really wasting the time of the court and they are really in bad faith,” he added.
He said he will ask the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to investigate.
“You cannot trifle with the judicial process in our country,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Interior and Local Government expressed confidence in the police force despite the torture claims made by some suspects in the killing of Degamo.
DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. on Friday said that the Philippine National Police did not torture the suspects, saying reports to the contrary were sensationalized.
Abalos added that the cases against the suspects will still succeed even with the retraction of their testimonies.
Abalos said he met with Remulla and discussed the cases filed with the DOJ.