Fugitive Philippine ex-lawmaker wanted in governor’s killing captured in Timor-Leste

BenarNews staff
2024.03.22
Manila
Fugitive Philippine ex-lawmaker wanted in governor’s killing captured in Timor-Leste Police carry the coffin of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo during his funeral procession in Siaton, Philippines, March 16, 2023.
Photo: Benar

A former Philippine congressman wanted for allegedly masterminding the commando-style killing of 10 people, including a provincial governor allied with President Ferdinand Marcos, was arrested in Timor-Leste on Thursday, Filipino officials confirmed.

Arnolfo Teves, who has been on the run since last year, was arrested by police in Dili, the Timorese capital, with help from the Interpol, the Philippine justice department said. He faces charges linked to the killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and others by a group of armed men at the governor’s home last March.

Teves was taken into custody while playing golf at a local driving range, the department said in a statement.

“I commend the collaborative efforts of our law enforcement agencies and our international partners in the successful arrest of former congressman Arnolfo ‘Arnie’ Teves Jr. in Timor-Leste,” Marcos said in a statement posted Friday on X, formerly Twitter. 

“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all those involved in this operation for their unwavering dedication to upholding peace and order.”

Teves’ capture “is a testament to the power of international cooperation,” the justice department said in a statement. 

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla challenged the fugitive ex-lawmaker to return home and face justice.

“The capture of Teves only proves that through concerted efforts and determination, terrorism can be thwarted and peace preserved,” Remulla said in a statement.

On March 4, 2023, gunmen clad in commando attire entered Degamo’s home and fatally shot him, along with two local officials and seven civilians. Eleven suspects were arrested, while one was killed in a manhunt that followed. At least three of the suspects were members of the military who were dishonorably discharged days after the killings.

On Friday, Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Teresita Daza confirmed that Teves’ passport had been canceled with all Philippine consular offices abroad being informed.

She said the Interpol office in the Philippines had been notified and it placed the passport “in its alert system in all international border” controls. 

Daza could not give details of when Teves would be returned to Manila. Government officials have asked their counterparts in Timor-Leste to allow his extradition.

“Rest assured that the government will take all necessary actions to bring him back to the country so he can face charges filed against him,” Marcos said in his statement. “I assure the Filipino people that we will spare no effort in ensuring that justice will prevail in this case.” 

National police chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. said that once Teves is flown back home, he could be detained at a police holding facility or with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which is under the justice department. The NBI is the Philippine equivalent of the U.S. FBI.

“It will be up to the courts to decide where to put him,” Acorda told reporters on Friday.

‘Terrorist’

The government last year branded Teves a “terrorist” for allegedly being behind the killing of Degamo. 

Marcos had taken a strong interest in the case and ordered police to quickly solve the killing, which was linked to a political feud with the Teves family. Degamo had defeated Teves’ younger brother, Pryde Henry Teves, in the 2022 governor’s race in Negros Oriental.

Arnolfo Teves, who was out of the country at the time of the killings, has not returned to the Philippines, forcing the House of Representatives to expel him.

The government’s Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) had placed the Teves brothers as well as 10 others on its terrorist watch list and froze their bank accounts and assets. Pryde Henry Teves has been cooperating with authorities and previously urged his brother to return home and clear the family name.

In phone interviews with local journalists while in hiding, Arnolfo Teves denied any involvement in the attack.

Degamo’s killing was the third incident in less than a month involving high-profile attacks against local government officials.

On Feb.17, 2023, four police officers were killed and three other people, including a provincial governor, were injured during a roadside ambush in the southern Philippines. The officers were escorting a convoy transporting Gov. Mamintal Adiong when unidentified gunmen attacked them on a highway near Maguing town in Lanao del Sur province.

Two days later, gunmen disguised as police officers waylaid a van carrying Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda of Aparri town in Nueva Vizcaya province, in the northern Philippines, killing him and five companions.

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