(INQUIRER) MANILA, Philippines — Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Tuesday urged suspended Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. to face the charges against him now that he and 12 others have been declared terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council.
The terror tag was in connection with the alleged involvement of Teves and other personalities in the March 2023 assassination of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and other political killings in Negros Oriental.
“As a colleague of Rep. Teves, I implore him to submit himself to the rule of law and take this opportunity to defend himself, present evidence to clear his name, and have the charges expunged through the appropriate legal procedures,” Estrada said in a statement, reacting to the terrorist tag.
“Naniniwala ako na mananaig ang katotohanan sa issue na ito kung paiiralin ang fair, transparent at impartial na legal proceedings,” he said.
(I believe the truth will prevail if fair, transparent, and impartial legal proceedings are upheld.)
At the same time, the senator cautioned authorities enforcing the anti-terror law that their operation “must be carried out with utmost respect for human rights and due process…”
Any measures that the government would take to combat terrorism should not infringe upon individuals’ fundamental rights and liberties, Estrada stressed.
“Striking a balance between security concerns and the protection of human rights is vital in upholding democratic values and the rule of law,” he said.
If evidence exists to support that the suspects were indeed involved in the killings and other criminal activities, then they should be brought to justice through a fair and impartial legal process, said the senator.
“Like those similarly situated, Rep. Teves should be accorded the presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a competent court,” Estrada said.
Aside from the slain governor, several people were also killed during an armed attack inside Degamo’s home in Barangay Isidro, Pamplona town, last March 4.