Who could have foreseen that a lawmaker with a penchant for stirring up news headlines would go beyond the pale?
In 2019, Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. pronounced he agreed with the proposal to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years of age.
House Bill 8858 then was passed after a third and final reading by the Congress, amending the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 that mandates the rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law.
Netizens expressed their frustration in the thread of comments reacting to the CNN Philippines’ crowdsourcing via Twitter on Jan. 28, 2019 for public opinion on the stance of Teves Jr. that “12 years old is an appropriate age for a child to be held responsible for his or her actions considering that first communion usually happens when a child is between eight to nine years old.”
In July 2022, the Negros legislator created again a flurry on social media when he proposed the renaming of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) into the Ferdinand E. Marcos International Airport.
Responding to a question Tweeted by the Inquirer.net on Jul. 6, 2022, netizens, instead of commenting in text, reposted satirical memes and the YouTube antics of animals bumbling and cavorting.
Recently, mockery took a backseat to horror and condemnation when the Negros legislator came up as one of the brains behind a heinous act of violence in Negros. Teves Jr. and his brother, Pryde Henry, are “linked to the assassination of Negros Governor Raul Degamo and eight others,” reported the Philippine News Agency on March 7, 2023.
Last March 4, armed and uniformed men attacked the provincial executive’s residence in Barangay San Isidro in Pamplona during a distribution of cash aid to government beneficiaries.
Degamo was slain 19 days after the Commission on Elections and the Supreme Court upheld his electoral win in 2022 as the Negros governor, unseating Pryde Henry.
According to a GMA News report, one of the arrested suspects involved in the March 4 assassination named a certain “Congressman Teves” as the person ordering the attack.
In a video made public on March 6, Teves Jr. denied that his clan benefited from the death of Degamo. The congressman was given travel clearance to go on a personal trip to the US from Feb. 28 to March 9 for “medical reasons,” according to his lawyer, who, during a dzBB interview, said that the congressman will return to the country to face the charges made against him.
Teves Jr. will have to account not just for the killings of Degamo and the civilians who were at the wrong place at the wrong time on March 4. Last March 7, the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) charged Teves Jr. and five other persons for at least three murders committed in 2019.
Citizens who are still reeling from the brazen March 4 daylight attack are aghast about the significant lapse of time between the 2019 murders and the March 2023 PNP-CIDG filing of multiple murder charges against Teves Jr. and the other perpetrators.
Other citizens will not be stunned since the extremely slow grinding of the wheels of justice is the coda, not the exception, in the country’s long, recurring history of impunity.
In this national trope of spectacular and unsolved killings are the spectacles of public denouncements and immediate formation of a task force for investigation, the arrest of suspects (many of whom will die while reporting resisting or attempting to escape) and the inexplicable inability of enforcers to catch the powerful who can, with a wave of a medical certificate, keep justice at bay.
Set against a familiar nightmare soaked with unresolved killings and disappearances, violence and impunity continue to be the phantasms displacing civility, law and justice in our national narrative.
REUNIONS OF OLD GHOSTS. Violence against not just lives but the ideals of civility, law and justice is the coda that strikes unease and fear in those who remember and see the rearing of impunity in spectacles that strike down people and subside in the collective forgetting until these are resurrected ad nauseam. / JOHN GILBERT MANANTAN
March 12, 2023
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