Teves freed and arrested again in East Timor
4 mins read

Teves freed and arrested again in East Timor

The extradition process is ongoing

MANILA, Philippines – Expelled MP Arnolfo Teves Jr., convicted in the March 2023 assassination of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, was released from detention in East Timor but later re-arrested.

According to his lawyer Ferdinando Topacio, Teves – held pending extradition trial – was released because the Philippine government’s request for his extradition was “submitted out of time and in a manner inconsistent with practice and customary international law.”

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

However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) clarified last night that Teves had been re-arrested and remanded into custody by the East Timorese Polícia Nacional at Becora Prison in Dili, where he will still face extradition trial.

Topacio said that legal proceedings regarding Teves’ stay in East Timor begin today.

Teves will be present at the proceedings, as well as witnesses, including former Human Rights Commissioner Wilhelm Soriano, who will be presented as a human rights expert.

Soriano will testify about human rights abuses in the Philippines that “should prevent extradition,” Topacio revealed.

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

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

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

He added that the Department of Justice was able to present all requirements in advance and in a manner fully consistent with East Timorese law, contrary to Topacio’s claims.

“His (Teves) release and subsequent re-arrest should not be treated as an obstacle to the trial, but simply as part of it. We appreciate the steps currently being taken by the East Timorese government to remove him from its territory and look forward to his return to the Philippines to face multiple murder charges,” Clavano said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through the Philippine Embassy in Dili, is working to extradite Teves to Manila, while Interpol’s central office in Dili is investigating another legal route to his extradition.

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

In addition to Degamo’s murder, Teves and others also face charges in the 2019 deaths of three people in Negros Oriental.

Teves, who went into hiding in March 2023 shortly after being allowed to travel to the United States on leave approved by Speaker Martin Romualdez, was designated a “terrorist” by the Anti-Terrorism Council in August 2023 following his expulsion from the House Representatives for disorderly conduct and continued absence despite expiration of travel authorization.

In early February, a court in Manila ordered his passport revoked. The expelled MP applied for asylum in East Timor in 2023. However, in May last year, the DFA announced that the application had been rejected. Teves then asked for a retrial, according to the Justice Department.

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

“He is not prosecuted (here) in a normal trial. He is being persecuted and the ultimate goal is to immobilize him, despite the constitutional guarantee of the presumption of innocence,” Topacio said in an interview with ANC.

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

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla earlier called on Teves to return immediately to the country and “stand trial.”