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Ex-solon Teves freed, re-arrested in Timor Leste

MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) said it remains hopeful that former Negros Oriental congressman Arnolfo Teves Jr. would soon be extradited to the country after he was re-arrested in Timor-Leste.

“The department is confident that the extradition proceedings will be successful. In addition, the former congressman may also still be deported depending on the direction taken by the Timor-Leste government in coordination with the Philippines,” DOJ spokesperson Assistant Secretary Jose Dominic Clavano IV said in a PNA report.

Clavano, meanwhile, denied claims of Teves’ counsel Ferdinand Topacio claimed that the former lawmaker has been provisionally released from Becora Prison in Dili, Timor-Leste pending his extradition trial after the Timor Leste Court allegedly declared his imprisonment illegal.

He described these claims as “purely misleading, highly irresponsible, and an insult to both countries, Timor-Leste and the Philippines.”

Clavano said the release and subsequent re-arrest of Teves from prison and his transfer to the Polícia Nacional of Timor-Leste (PNTL) should not be taken as a hindrance, as it is part of the country’s judicial process.

He also maintained that the DOJ has submitted all requirements ahead of time and in a manner fully compliant with Timor-Leste’s law.

“He (Topacio) ought to know that while he owes fealty to his client, he remains an officer of the court and must act accordingly to maintain its majesty and integrity,” Clavano said.

Teves is now under the custody of the PNTL and he will continue to stand trial for his anticipated extradition, he said.

Clavano said the Philippines, as the requesting party, must respect and participate in the legal proceedings of Timor-Leste.

“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,” he added.

In another statement, DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the Philippines’ actions on Teve’s case are grounded in an unyielding quest for justice for the murder victims.

He said the pain and suffering of the victims’ families are not forgotten and that it is the solemn duty of the government to ensure that those responsible are held to account.

Remulla expressed hopes that the ousted congressman would soon be extradited to face the charges against him.

“We assure the public and the international community that all legal procedures will be strictly adhered to, and Mr. Teves’ human rights will be respected throughout this process,” Remulla said.

“However, we must also emphasize the relentless pursuit of justice for the victims and their families who have long awaited accountability. Any attempts to destabilize the relationship between our nations or undermine justice will not be tolerated,” he added.

The DOJ clarified that the rule of law applies to all, without exception, and that there is no place for impunity in the country.

Teves must face the charges against him in a Philippine court of law, and not anywhere else, he added.

“Let this serve as a clear and unequivocal message: the Philippines remains steadfast in its pursuit of justice, and we will continue to uphold the principles of accountability and the rule of law,” he said. 

The former lawmaker is facing 10 counts of murder, 12 counts of frustrated murder, and four counts of attempted murder before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 51 in relation to the March 4, 2023 shootings in Pamplona town, Negros Oriental