Arnie Teves

Fugitive ex-lawmaker Arnie Teves released from house arrest in Timor-Leste

Jairo Bolledo

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Fugitive ex-lawmaker Arnie Teves released from house arrest in Timor-Leste

UNDER MONITORING. Fugitive Arnie Teves is seen leaving a Timor-Leste jail in this photo provided by his lawyer Ferdinand Topacio.

Teves is now free from house arrest, but he is being monitored by Timorese security forces, says the Department of Justice

MANILA, Philippines – Fugitive expelled lawmaker Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. has been released from house arrest in Timor-Leste, the Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed on Saturday, June 22.

DOJ spokesperson Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano said the Philippine justice department received a message from the Timorese Central Authority that Teves’ house arrest had concluded at around 7 pm Timor-Leste time (6 pm Manila time) on Friday, June 21.

Clavano explained that under Timorese laws, a fugitive like Teves could only be detained for a maximum of 90 days. The former Negros Oriental lawmaker is now free from house arrest, but he is being monitored by Timorese security forces.

Clavano added that land, sea, and air border authorities of the Southeast Asian country had been ordered to ensure that Teves would stay only within Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste.

The DOJ official also said that Teves has to be presented before the court every two days while waiting for the results of the extradition trial. The decision is expected to come out by next week, the official added.

In a statement on Saturday, Ferdinand Topacio, Teves’ counsel, confirmed the expelled lawmaker’s release from house arrest.

“Mr. Teves has been imposed certain conditions for his release, including regular reporting to a court officer and a commitment not to leave [Timor-Leste] while the extradition case is pending, which conditions are customary in litigations of this nature,” Topacio said.

On June 18, the DOJ announced the conclusion of the hearing of Teves’ extradition case. The Timorese Court of Appeals will take five days before rendering its decision, which is why the DOJ said they were expecting its release by next week.

Just a week ago, on June 13, the DOJ said Teves was put under house arrest amid the ongoing extradition hearing. Teves was under 24-hour security, with only family members permitted to visit him.

Earlier, Topacio had claimed that his client was released from detention because the government “screwed up,” alleging that the Philippines filed its extradition request out of time. The DOJ was quick to counter Topacio’s claims, saying Teves had been immediately rearrested by the Timor-Leste police as the Philippines continued to work on his extradition.

Clavano explained that what happened was a procedural release and that Teves was immediately taken into custody by the Timorese police “to continue to stand trial for his anticipated extradition.”

Teves is the suspect behind the killing of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo in 2023. The former lawmaker also faces a murder charge over three separate killings that happened between March and June 2019 in Negros Oriental. There are at least two standing warrants of arrest against him. 

After Degamo’s killing, Teves refused to return to the country and was later expelled from the House of Representatives. He also tried to apply for political asylum in Timor-Leste but was denied. In March, Teves, who was on the International Police’s red notice alert, was arrested by the Interpol National Central Bureau and the Timorese police.

The Philippine government’s main route to bring Teves back to the Philippines is through extradition, using the framework of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, to which both the Philippines and Timor-Leste are signatories. But Philippine authorities also canceled Teves’ passport, which means the former lawmaker could also be deported. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.