Teves freed, rearrested in Timor-Leste

Daphne Galvez - The Philippine Star
Teves freed, rearrested in Timor-Leste
Photo released by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio yesterday shows him (left) walking with former Negros Oriental congressman Arnolfo Teves Jr. following the latter’s release from preventive detention at the Becora Prison in Dili, Timor-Leste.
STAR / File

Extradition process continues

MANILA, Philippines — Expelled lawmaker Arnolfo Teves Jr., tagged as the mastermind of the March 2023 assassination of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo, was released from detention in Timor-Leste but later rearrested.

According to his lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, Teves – detained pending his trial for extradition – was released because the Philippine government’s request for his extradition “was made out of time and in a manner that is not sanctioned by practice and customary international law.”

“In other words, our government screwed up. Thus, his imprisonment was declared illegal,” Topacio said.

But the Department of Justice (DOJ) clarified last night that Teves was rearrested and taken into custody by the Polícia Nacional of Timor-Leste at the Becora Prison in Dili to continue to stand trial for extradition.

Topacio said judicial proceedings in relation to Teves’ stay in Timor-Leste begin today.

Teves will attend the proceedings as well as witnesses, including former human rights commissioner Wilhelm Soriano, who will be presented as an expert in human rights.

Soriano will testify on human rights violations in the Philippines “that should bar extradition,” Topacio revealed.

“The road to justice for Mr. Teves will be long and hard, bloody and painful, but we will never surrender,” he added.

Last night, DOJ spokesman Mico Clavano expressed hope the extradition proceedings against Teves would be successful, adding that the former congressman may also still be deported “depending on the direction taken by the Timor-Leste government in coordination with the Philippines.”

Clavano chided Topacio’s “misleading and highly irresponsible” statements regarding Teves’ release, adding these were “an insult to both countries.”

He added that the DOJ was able to submit all requirements ahead of time and in a manner fully compliant with Timor-Leste’s laws, contrary to Topacio’s claims.

“His (Teves) release and subsequent re-arrest should not be taken as hindrance to the process but simply a part of it. We appreciate the steps currently being undertaken by the Timor-Leste government to remove him from their territory and we eagerly anticipate his return to the Philippines so he can face the multiple murder charges,” Clavano said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through the Philippine embassy in Dili, is working on the extradition of Teves to Manila, while the Interpol national central bureau in Dili is exploring another legal route to his extradition.

Teves was arrested in March while playing golf by Timor-Leste police based on a red notice or warrant issued by the Interpol, which was hunting him after he fled the Philippines following the murder of Degamo and nine others.

Aside from the murder of Degamo, Teves and others are also facing charges for the deaths of three individuals in Negros Oriental in 2019.

Teves, who went into hiding in March 2023 shortly after being allowed to go to the US for a vacation sanctioned by Speaker Martin Romualdez, was designated a “terrorist” by the Anti-Terrorism Council in August 2023 following his expulsion from the House of Representatives for disorderly conduct and continued absence despite an expired travel authority.

In early February, a Manila Court ordered the cancellation of his passport. The expelled lawmaker applied for asylum in Timor-Leste in 2023. However, in May last year, the DFA said the application was denied. Teves then sought for reconsideration, according to the DOJ.

Earlier, Topacio expressed optimism that Teves’ application for political asylum in Timor-Leste would be granted and the alleged killer of Degamo would no longer be extradited or deported back to the Philippines.

“He is not being prosecuted (here) in the normal process. He is being persecuted with the end view of pinning him down, notwithstanding the constitutional guarantees of the presumption of innocence,” Topacio said in an interview with ANC.

He insisted Teves was a victim of “political persecution” by the Philippine government.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla earlier called on Teves to return to the country immediately and “face the court squarely.”

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with