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LABUAN BAJO, Indonesia – Suspended Negros Oriental lawmaker Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves has the odds stacked against him, as no less than the chief executive of the country that denied his application for asylum is set to meet with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Teves’ failed asylum bid could be among the issues on the table in the bilateral meeting of Marcos and the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Taur Matan Ruak, at the 42nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia.
“Very possible, very probable,” said House Speaker Martin Romualdez, who is part of Marcos’ delegation in Indonesia.
Timor-Leste is attending as an observer in the ASEAN Summit, as it works on being a full member of the regional bloc. The Philippines is supporting Timor-Leste’s bid.
“As one community, it is imperative that we provide whole-of-community support to Timor-Leste as it continues its meaningful journey towards full ASEAN membership. Its membership can only strengthen our ASEAN community as it expands the reach of ASEAN’s united front to face the challenges of the 21st Century,” Marcos said in a speech at the summit.
However, Romualdez is unaware whether or not Marcos will go as far asking Timor-Leste to hand over Teves.
“Well, I don’t know if he will ask to produce him because he’s already in Timor-Leste and we are aware of that. So, with the denial (of asylum), there is also a five-day period within which to leave the country so by tomorrow (Thursday), he has four days to leave Timor-Leste,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez added that Teves may have shortened his stay in Timor-Leste by applying for asylum. Tourists can stay a maximum of 30 days in Timor-Leste but the denial of Teves’ asylum request has greatly reduced the time he can stay. Timor-Leste has asked him to leave the country in five days from the denial.
“So it’s up to Congressman Arnie Teves to return home or if he decides to move to another country if he can. Pero kung ako si Cong. Arnie Teves, umuwi ka na kasi alam ng lahat yung mga allegasyon na harapin mo na lang,” Romualdez said.
(So it’s up to Congressman Arnie Teves to return home or if he decides to move to another country. But if I were Cong. Arnie Teves, go home because everyone knows the allegations, face them.)
Teves had been slapped with the rare punishment of a 60-day suspension by the lower chamber since March 22, after he showed “disorderly behavior” when he stayed abroad with an expired travel clearance and defied orders to return home and perform his congressional duties. His current punishment denies him his salary, office space, and other House privileges. Romualdez warned that another punishment may be enforced against Teves.
Teves has been out of the country since February 2023, and refused to return after being linked to the assassination of Governor Roel Degamo in March 2023. Ten people were killed in the brazen attack, with 16 others injured.
Teves initially flew to the US prior to the Degamo slaying purportedly for “medical reasons.” Previously, the Department of Justice said that he was allegedly in Cambodia end of March and early April.
During a Senate hearing last April 17, which was holding an inquiry into Negros Oriental killings, it was reported that Teves was spotted in South Korea.
He also faces numerous criminal complaints, some in connection with at least three killings in his province in 2019, and others in relation to illegal possession of firearms.
Teves has repeatedly maintained his innocence, and said the allegations against him were merely orchestrated by his rivals in politics and the e-sabong (online cockfighting) community. He also insisted he could not come home due to supposed threats to his life. – Rappler.com