FOUR of the 11 alleged perpetrators in the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo have recanted their statements admitting their involvement and of suspended Negros Oriental Third District Representative Arnolfo Teves Jr. in the crime.

Those who retracted their statements, according to their legal counsel Danny Villanueva, were Rogelio Antipolo, Osmundo Rivero, Rommel Pattaguan and Dahniel Lora.

Rivero filed a counter-affidavit denying any knowledge on Degamo’s assassination, saying the police tortured him to admit hand in the crime, particularly in the planning and execution, and to implicate Teves as the mastermind.

He said he was suffocated using a plastic bag placed in his head, kicked and beaten up, and an iron wire was even strung on his neck.

Villanueva said they filed a motion for the conduct of a medical examination on Rivero by an independent doctor and not those affiliated with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) or the police.

In his previous affidavits, Rivero said the execution plot against Degamo was planned in Teves’ ancestral house.

He said he knew Marvin Miranda, Teves’ former body-guard who was earlier tagged by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla as the “director” of the assassination plot.

Villanueva said these were “entirely absolutely not true,” noting that according to Rivero, he was in his place in Bayawan City when the assassination of Degamo happened as he was busy locating his missing motorcycle.

On March 5, Rivero said while on his way to the police station to report his missing motorcycle, he asked for assistance from a police mobile that was passing by but he ended up getting arrested.

According to the police, Rivero was arrested during the conduct of hot pursuit operations in Bayawan City.

Rivero said the affidavit was prepared by the police and the NBI and he was only forced to sign it to ensure the safety of his family, especially his wife and two children.

“Hindi totoo na may kilala akong Marvin. At hindi rin totoo na aking itinuro ang litrato ni [Congressman] Teves nang ipaturo sa akin sa apat na litrato sapagkat hindi ko siya kilala at kailanman ay hindi ko pa siya nakikita,” Rivero said in his affidavit.

(It's not true that I know Marvin. And it is also not true that I pointed to the photo of [Congressman] Teves when I was asked to identify from the four photos because I do not know him and I have never seen him.)

“Hindi rin totoo na alam ko ang mga naging pagpa-plano sa pagpatay kay [Governor] Degamo at hindi rin totoo na pamilyar sa akin ang mga ginamit na baril at kasuotan dahil kailanman ay hindi ko ito nagamit o nakita,” he added.

(It is also not true that I know the plans to kill [Governor] Degamo and it is also not true that I am familiar with the guns and clothes used because I have never used or seen them.)

Rivero said the lawyer assigned to him by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) also advised him to give in to the demand of the authorities to avoid getting hurt.

Lawyer Jason Bandal, the PAO lawyer assigned to Rivero, denied Rivero's statements, saying he is “not worried at all because I’m sure I have done everything right.”

Villanueva expressed confidence that charges of murder, frustrated murder and attempted murder filed against Rivero will not stand in court.

“From the very start, I don’t think there is a solid case not only against [Congressman] Teves but against my client as well because his previous statement, which were prepared in violation of his constitutional rights, will not be any more use as it is considered as fruit from a poisonous tree, so it is inadmissible evidence in any proceeding,” Villanueva said in a television interview on Tuesday, May 23, 2023.

“Only the statement of these alleged perpetrators is the basis of the DOJ (Department of Justice) in linking Teves to the alleged incident,” he added.

Rivero also filed a petition for habeas corpus in order for the DOJ and the NBI to bring his family in court.

Villanueva said Rivero’s wife and two children, ages 2 and 15, were “seized” from their home in Zamboanga del Sur and were brought to Manila.

In the petition, Rivero said his family was “unlawfully detained and deprived of their liberty by the order and behest of the respondents,” who were Remulla and NBI Chief Medardo De Lemos.

Remulla, however, told reporters in a message that Rivero’s family does not want to talk to him “according to the Witness Protection Program.”

On the part of Antipolo, he denied having personal knowledge of the statements in his affidavit, particularly the failed attempts to kill Degamo, with Teves and Miranda allegedly behind and the recruitment of the attack team.

He said this information came from the police.

“He was only made to sign those affidavits out of fear that he will be subjected to torture as well as for the safety of his family so he cooperated, by affixing his... reluctantly, not freely not voluntarily, he affixed his signature on those affidavits allegedly confessing to his involvement not only in the planning and execution but as well as in the recruitment of the alleged members of the assault team,” said Villanueva.

Unlike Rivero, Antipolo said he did not receive any physical torture but he was threatened that he, as well as his family, will be harmed if he will not give in to the demands of the police.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief General Benjamin Acorda Jr. refused to comment on the matter so as not to pre-empt the investigation and the court proceedings.

Earlier, Remulla said at least six arrested suspects in the murder of Degamo had refused to cooperate with their investigation after getting their own lawyers.

The Degamo family said it is expecting the recantation of the suspects.

There were insinuations that the new lawyers of the suspects were hired by Teves but it was denied by Villanueva.

Teves has repeatedly denied involvement in Degamo's killing. He refused to return to the country to face allegations against him.

Charges of multiple murder, frustrated and attempted murder have been filed against him. (SunStar Philippines)