DOJ seeks speedy Teves return, but delay seen

DOJ seeks speedy Teves return, but delay seen

Arnolfo "Arnie" Teves doj  return


The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday said its priority following the arrest of expelled Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. in Timor-Leste would be to ensure his safe return to the country where he can finally face trial for the killing of a political rival last year.

But Teves’ lawyer warned that it could take a while before his client could be brought back to Manila since his case must first be presented before a Timorese court.


Assistant Justice Secretary Jose Dominic Clavano IV said the Philippine government was working out with Timor-Leste the return of Teves, who was arrested on Thursday afternoon “while playing golf” in the capital Dili.


READ: Teves arrested while golfing in Timor-Leste 

“The priority of the government is for him to face the charges the best way he can because that’s part of due process. So it is in our best interest and it is in his best interest that he is safe, secure, and healthy,” Clavano told reporters.

He said Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla had issued an order to make sure Teves would “stand trial safe and sound.”

Teves was abroad when then Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo was killed by a group of gunmen who entered his residential compound in Pamplona town on March 4, 2023. Nine other people were killed in the daytime attack.

President Marcos on Friday said “the government will take all necessary actions to bring (Teves) back to the country so he can face the charges filed against him.”

READ: Teves to face charges in PH, assures Marcos


“I assure the Filipino people that we will spare no effort in ensuring that justice will prevail in this case,” Mr. Marcos said in a post on X.

Faster process

Manila does not have an extradition treaty with Dili, but Clavano said the government could still pursue that option even if it “will take some time.”

He said deportation may be the faster process since Teves’ passport had already been canceled by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“As soon as Mr. Teves is back, we can expect the courts to unarchive the cases for his arraignment,” Clavano said.

But according to Teves’ lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, his client should first be turned over to a Timorese court while the Philippine government makes an official request for his return. The court will then decide on that request, he said in a message to the Inquirer.

Topacio also said Teves had assembled a legal team in Timor-Leste led by two legal luminaries—former Minister of Justice Tiago Amaral Sarmento and former Prosecutor General Jose Ximenes.

Sarmento served as the country’s justice chief under Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak from March 2022 to July 2023, while Ximenes was appointed prosecutor general in 2013 when Ruak was Timor-Leste president.

Not indicative of guilt

Citing a briefing given by the two lawyers, Topacio said Teves should undergo an administrative 20-day trial “in which evidence may be adduced [or presented] to determine what will be done relative to any request [by the Philippine] government.”

Teves’ arrest in Timor-Leste “was not indicative of his guilt in any case in the Philippines, nor was it because of violation of any law of Timor-Leste, but simply because of the mechanisms inherent in the system of the Interpol,” Topacio said.

“Therefore, any references as to terrorism, criminal acts or any other inferences committed by Rep. Teves, or any implication that he is already guilty thereof, is not only premature but injudicious and ignorant as well,” he added.

Topacio said the DOJ may be in for a “rude awakening” regarding his client, “which will happen soon enough as its cases against Teves continue to collapse under the weight of lies and fabrications.’’

‘Man up’

The slain governor’s widow, Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, challenged Teves to “man up” (Magpakalalaki ka).”

“A real man faces the consequences of his sins,” Janice said in an interview on Friday.

“Upon learning from Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano of the DOJ that the arrest is true, first I was a bit emotional. My phone started to receive numerous calls. I’m relieved that finally it happened,” she added.”

“The families of the nine other victims even told me that this calls for a celebration,” Janice said, but “I told them there’s still a lot of work for us to focus on. The fight has just started and we need more strength to continue.”

“The governor was just one of the many victims. I hope a lot of people will come to the open and tell their stories, too,” she added.

Other cases

Teves and his bodyguard Marvin Miranda have been charged with murder for the killings. While remaining overseas, Teves was also linked by the DOJ to previous violent incidents in Negros Oriental and charged with frustrated murder and attempted murder for the death of other political opponents.

In August last year, he was expelled by the House of Representatives mainly on ethical grounds and was designated a terrorist by the Anti-Terrorism Council for allegedly coddling an armed group.

In February this year, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) issued a “red notice” to law enforcement worldwide, upon the Philippine government’s request, to locate and arrest Teves.

In the first two months after Degamo’s assassination, 10 other suspects who had been in police custody retracted their statements that linked Teves and Miranda to the killing.

In May last year, the suspects issued separate counter affidavits accusing the Philippine National Police of coercing or torturing them into signing statements pointing to Teves as the mastermind.

But Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Fadullon then said the retractions would only end up damaging the credibility of the suspects.

In June, Remulla alleged that former Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo had offered P8 million each to the suspects.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Remulla also linked two more lawyers, Danny Villanueva and Jord Jharoah Valenton, to the supposed bribery attempt. The three lawyers later issued statements denying the justice secretary’s allegation. —WITH REPORTS FROM JULIE M. AURELIO AND INQUIRER RESEARCH

TAGS: Arnolfo Teves Jr., DoJ, Timor Leste

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.