Teves under house arrest in Timor-Leste

Daphne Galvez - The Philippine Star
Teves under house arrest in Timor-Leste
This photo shows a picture of expelled lawmaker Arnolfo Teves Jr. being arrested by Timor-Leste law enforcement in Dili, East Timor. P
olícia Científica e de Investigação Criminal / Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — Expelled lawmaker Arnolfo Teves Jr., tagged as the mastermind behind the March 4, 2023 assassination of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo, is under house arrest in Timor-Leste as authorities process his possible extradition.

The Department of Justice and Teves’ lawyer confirmed this development yesterday, with the DOJ citing the Prosecutor General’s Office of Timor-Leste.

“He will be under 24-hour security, with only family members permitted to visit him. The government will maintain close oversight of the situation to ensure that all procedures are both valid and appropriate,” the DOJ said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Justice Undersecretary Raul Vasquez explained that Teves is “under the control of the police authorities” and is “deprived of liberty” while hearings on his extradition are ongoing.

For his part, Teves’ counsel Ferdinand Topacio said the order on the former lawmaker’s house arrest was issued on June 12. He said the lawmaker “has been released from prison and that he is now under custodia legis.”

“After having determined that he is not a flight risk and that he has not violated any laws, he was placed under guard in his residence simply to ensure his attendance in the hearings,” Topacio said.

He added that Teves’ risk was “not so high that he should remain in jail” nor be in the holding area of the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL).

According to Topacio, Teves is only allowed to go out to attend court hearings. If there are necessary trips such as medical-related visits, it would need court approval.

According to a report from Timor-Leste media agency Hatutan.com, the Court of Appeals in the country placed Teves under house arrest to ensure his attendance to extradition hearings against him since the former lawmaker remains to be a “flight risk” and has the financial capability to leave the country.

The court noted that Teves is facing multiple murder charges in the Philippines and that he came to Timor-Leste by private plane in April 2023.

The appellate court also found Teves’ detention to be valid as it was carried out following an arrest warrant by a judge.

Teves is facing multiple murder charges for the killing of Degamo and nine others at the home of the then-governor, but he has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Aside from the murder of Degamo, Teves and others have also been charged with the deaths of three individuals in Negros Oriental in 2019.

Teves was arrested in Dili, Timor-Leste in March while playing golf based on the Interpol red notice issued against him in February.

In August 2023, the Anti-Terrorism Council designated Teves as a “terrorist” after he was expelled from the House of Representatives for disorderly conduct and continued absence despite an expired travel authority.

He is currently facing trial for his extradition to Manila, which is being worked out by the Department of Foreign Affairs through the Philippine embassy in Dili, while another route is also being undertaken by the Interpol national central bureaus in Dili.

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