crimes in the Philippines

Arnie Teves extradition an ‘answered prayer,’ says Degamo widow

Jairo Bolledo

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Arnie Teves extradition an ‘answered prayer,’ says Degamo widow

LAWMAKER. Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo Teves Jr. in 2021.

House of Representatives

Timor-Leste grants the Philippines' extradition request, which paves the way for Teves return to the country to face his cases

MANILA, Philippines – Pamplona, Negros Oriental Mayor Janice Degamo said the approval of the Philippine government request to extradite fugitive expelled lawmaker Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves is an “answered prayer” for them.

It’s an answered prayer po. Talagang naiiyak ako pero talagang ano, ‘yan ‘yong prayer namin na managot talaga ‘yong may sala. And the one step to make that happen is to have him come home and face us, face the court, face the people, na talagang may ginawa nila ng masama. Kaya dapat managot po talaga sila,” Degamo said in an interview with reporters.

(It’s an answered prayer. I am really emotional, but that’s really our prayer, that he will be held into account. And the step to make that happen is to have him come home and face us, face the court, face the people, because they really did commit wrongdoings. That’s why they really need to be held accountable.)

Manila’s Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Thursday night, June 27, that the Timorese Court of Appeals granted the Philippine government’s extradition request. The approval will facilitate Teves’ return to the country to face the cases filed against him.

The former lawmaker, a scion of the influential Teves clan of Negros Oriental, is wanted for murder, frustrated, and attempted murder in relation to the assassination of former Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo in 2023. The expelled lawmaker also faces three counts of murder for three separate killings in his home province in 2019.

Back in their province, Degamo’s widow said their fellow Negrenses were praying that justice would be given to her slain husband. The Pamplona mayor also said that she believed the return of Teves to the country will be successful, adding that she would love to face in court the alleged mastermind behind her husband’s assassination.

Ngayon po na [mapapauwi na] talaga siya (Now that he will return to the country), he will be facing us and it is one step towards justice,” the Degamo matriarch said.

Ferdinand Topacio, legal counsel of Teves, said they have 30 days to appeal the Timorese court’s decision. This was confirmed by DOJ officials on Friday, June 28.

On Thursday night, the DOJ said it was informed by the Timor-Leste attorney general regarding the extradition’s approval. Teves is currently in the Southeast Asian country after refusing to come back after Degamo’s assassination last year.

While in Timor-Leste, he was arrested by the International Police National Central Bureau and the Timorese police because of the crimes he faces in the Philippines. Teves was also expelled from the House of Representive by none other than his colleagues.

In ensuring Teves’ return to the country, the Philippines went through the long process of extradition. The Philippines has no extradition treaty with Timor-Leste, but the Southeast Asian neighbor has its local extradition law, which was used against the fugitive expelled lawmaker, according to justice officials.

Arnie Teves extradition an ‘answered prayer,’ says Degamo widow
No more political asylum

Teves also sought political asylum in Timor-Leste, but was denied in May 2023. Persons under threat in their own countries for politically motivated reasons may be granted protection by other nations through political asylum. In other words, the Southeast Asian country found no compelling reason to provide protection to Teves.

Topacio said they have an ongoing appeal on their denied bid for asylum. However, DOJ officials said Timor-Leste already turned down with finality Teves’ request for protection.

“They filed a motion for reconsideration [for the asylum], this was denied as well. So to our minds, as lawyers, that is the end of the rope on that particular aspect,” DOJ Undersecretary Raul Vasquez told reporters on Friday.

Aside from extradition, the Philippine government could have also opted for a simple deportation to bring back Teves because his passport has already been cancelled by a Philippine court. But the government rather used extradition. With the lack of passport and the conclusion of the extradition hearing, Teves may be rearrested by Timorese authorities, Vasquez said.

“As far as we could see it, he could be arrested as an undocumented alien. And once he is arrested, he would not be arrested because of extradition proceedings, but because he’s being undocumented,” Vasquez said.

If rearrested, Teves would be under the Timorese immigration’s custody.

From police custody, Teves was placed under house arrest as his extradition hearing continued. He was released from house arrest last week because under Timorese laws, a fugitive like Teves could only be detained for a maximum of 90 day. Despite this, the former lawmaker remains under the monitoring of Timorese security forces. –

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Jairo Bolledo

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