No formal charges have been filed so far against any person suspected of being the brains behind the murder of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo and eight others at his residential compound in Pamplona town.Only one name keeps popping up, however, as the principal suspect. And as of yesterday, even in the absence of a formal indictment, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. is now considered a fugitive.Arnie Teves refuses to return to the country. His brother Pryde Henry, Degamo’s rival for the race for governor last year, has expressed readiness to cooperate in any probe, and is urging Arnie to come home. The brothers are reportedly being considered as principal conspirators in the deadly raid on the Degamo home.Probers are painting a picture of a warlord family with tentacles in criminal activities including assassinations and illegal gambling.As can be pieced together from recent law enforcement operations and pronouncements of officials, the family maintains several homes across Negros Oriental, a large fleet of vehicles, a private plane and helicopter, an arsenal big enough to equip a private army, and enough wealth to splurge on the luxury vanity service, stem cell treatment.How did the family amass such wealth? The Teves clan is one of the largest in the province, with wealth built on the main industry in Negros, sugar production, along with property development.The extended clan, which includes the Preyslers, Pastors and Villanuevas of Negros, has a long history of involvement in local politics dating back to the Spanish period, with Dumaguete among the bailiwicks.Arnolfo Teves Jr., a businessman who rose from barangay captain to congressman, had also engaged in the highly lucrative e-sabong before it was stopped amid reports linking the online cockfighting to armed violence and the disappearance of 34 aficionados in Luzon beginning in April 2021.Probers have said they are pursuing reports that the disappearances could be connected to rigged e-sabong games, in which persons capable of armed violence lost enormous sums.An e-sabong operator in Luzon previously said billions could be earned from the games. That kind of money can give credence to the claim of Degamo’s widow, Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, that the contract to kill her husband cost P50 million.The gun-for-hire business has thrived along with the operations of warlord politicians.* * *Officials have said that the suspected masterminds in Degamo’s murder could be linked to an organized crime ring operating mostly in Negros.Arnie Teves, who has alternated with Pryde Henry in occupying the post of 3rd District congressman, has also been linked to drug trafficking, but allegedly stopped at the height of Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal crackdown on illegal drugs. The congressman previously admitted abusing drugs in his younger years, but claimed he had been clean for several years.People wonder what the other members of the clan think of their surname becoming synonymous with mass murder.The unhealthy intertwining of politics, family business and organized crime, with family members behaving like warlords in their turfs, is not unique in our country.We have seen warlord behavior in the cases of the Ampatuans of Maguindanao and the Parojinogs of Ozamiz City.Abusive behavior can even be passed on to the next generations. In March last year, Arnie Teves’ son Kurt Matthew, accompanied by bodyguards, was shown on surveillance video footage beating up a security guard at BF Homes Parañaque who refused entry to his vehicle for lack of a homeowner-issued sticker.Kurt Matthew later issued a public apology and announced he was quitting as provincial board member. Following Degamo’s murder, Kurt Matthew was reportedly prevented from flying out on the family’s private plane. He and his brother Axel face charges for the unlicensed guns found in recent police searches conducted at their homes. The search warrants were issued in connection with three murders in Negros in 2019.* * *Across the country, there are many other clans behaving like warlords in their fiefdoms. They attract national attention only when they commit acts that are so atrocious to be brushed aside, when even their backers in the national government begin to see them as a political liability.Clans that know enough to keep their head down, even as they engage in illegal activities, have prospered.Politics is one of the biggest and most efficient Laundromats in this country. Several notorious jueteng lords and racketeers have parlayed their enormous ill-gotten wealth into a career shift to politics.The Parojinogs, according to police, started out as an organized crime ring. It took Rodrigo Duterte’s hardline stance on drug dealers to finally neutralize the Parojinogs in bloody raids on the clan’s homes.There are many other such clans all over the country, operating as criminal organizations but on a smaller scale. Many know enough to operate under the radar; police heat and bad press are unhealthy for the family business.But this kind of power can be heady and can breed impunity – a belief that everyone has a price, that one can get away with anything including mass murder.When the key government positions in a particular area are occupied by members of only one clan, they can have control over every pillar of the criminal justice system. This can bolster the feeling of invincibility, of exemption from public accountability.The line between politician and gangster or warlord becomes blurred.