Remulla: Camp of alleged co-mastermind bribed Degamo slay suspects ₱8M to recant

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 2) — The camp of Marvin Miranda, the alleged co-mastermind in the assassination of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo, bribed suspects in the Degamo murder case with ₱8 million to recant their statements, Justice chief Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla claimed.

Citing an intelligence report, Remulla told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Friday that suspects detained at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) detention facility were offered ₱8 million each for their recantation.

He separately told reporters later in the day that the bribe money likely came from a “very wealthy, moneyed source who has something at stake in the criminal cases.”

According to the official, “things started to change” when Miranda – the alleged co-mastermind in the murder of Degamo — was arrested and had co-mingled with the suspects.

Miranda is represented by former DOJ Undersecretary Reynante Orceo. The Source asked Remulla if Orceo is the same former DOJ official claimed by the Degamo family's lawyer Levy Baligod to be offering money to those detained at the NBI to not cooperate with the government.

READ: Ex-DOJ official bribed Degamo slay suspects to not cooperate with authorities – lawyer

“Yes, yes, if I’m not mistaken, ‘yong unang balita namin, he was offering them ₱8 million each para maging panatag sila at maniwala sila sa kanyang principal na congressman, the gambling lord,” Remulla replied.

[Translation: Yes, if I’m not mistaken, we first learned that he was offering them P8 million each to put them at ease and trust his principal — the congressman, the gambling lord.]

However, he also later said they believe several lawyers played a part in the alleged bribery.

“Sabi nila there were laywers, lawyers were the ones on top of this. And it's really not just one lawyer ha...These are the expensive lawyers, probably, who are orchestrating the legal defense team for this terrorist group,” he said in a press briefing.

Sought for comment on the allegations against him, Orceo said these are “purely hearsay.”

“The imputation that I offered Php8M to the accused in Degamo murder cases to recant their affidavit is based on the secretary's ‘information he received’...As lawyers, which Sec. Remulla is supposedly aware of, such statement is devoid of evidentiary weight or probative value,” Orceo said in a message.

He also quoted the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability for lawyers, saying “A lawyer shall not, directly or indirectly, impute to or accuse another lawyer of a misconduct, impropriety, or a crime in the absence of factual or legal basis.”

Orceo added that he only represents Miranda, so "the recantations of all the other accused should be attributed to their respective counsels, not to us.”

On May 15, Remulla told reporters that the filing of charges against Negros Oriental Rep. Arnie Teves, one of the alleged masterminds of the murder, was pushed back after around six or seven suspects in the Degamo slay “lawyered up” and started to not cooperate with the DOJ.

Ten suspects have withdrawn their statements but Remulla said the DOJ doesn’t know yet if the suspects had already received the bribe.

“Pero ‘yon ‘yong balita sa amin na nagiging alok sa loob ng NBI, ‘yon ‘yong intelligence report namin sa loob ng NBI na gano’n na ang alukan ng pera para itong mga tao bumaliktad,” the secretary said. “‘Yan ang sigurado ko, inalok mga ‘yan ng pera.”[Translation: That’s the offer we learned inside the NBI through our intelligence report so that they will recant. I’m sure of it, they were being bribed.]

READ: Recantations do not weaken our case vs Degamo slay suspects – Remulla

Remulla wants IBP to probe another suspect's counsel

Remulla also said the DOJ will ask the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to investigate lawyer Danny Villanueva’s “misconduct,” after his client Jhudie Rivero filed a writ of habeas corpus before the Manila City Regional Trial Court to force the DOJ to release his family.

Villanueva represents some of the suspects in the Degamo slay, including Rivero.

Rivero claimed that soldiers and police officers took his wife and two sons from their home in Zamboanga del Sur on March 5. He then received information that his family was brought to the DOJ and the NBI in Manila where they were supposedly "unlawfully detained."

In a briefing on Wednesday, Remulla said families of the suspects were fetched formally to be under the custody of the Witness Protection Program (WPP), adding that Rivero's wife did not want to see and talk with her husband.

Remulla also said Villanueva did not sign the petition, and that the suspect’s family had already left the Witness Protection Program when the petition was filed.

“Ibig sabihin no’n, moot and academic na ‘yong kaso finile pa rin nila [It means the case was already moot and academic but they still filed it],” Remulla said in his interview with The Source.

“So they’re really wasting the time of court and they’re really in bad faith itong [this] attorney Villanueva by filing the habeas corpus case.”

“Misconduct ng mga abogado nila, we will ask the IBP to look into it,” the DOJ chief added. “Pati use of social media, it is too much. We will write to IBP about this matter.”