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Murder-accused Filipino politician nabbed in Timor-Leste

Ex-Congressman Arnolfo Teves is charged with the murder of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo and nine others
Former Philippine congressman Arnolfo Teves Jr. is seen in this file image.

Former Philippine congressman Arnolfo Teves Jr. is seen in this file image. (Photo: One News Philippines)

Published: March 22, 2024 11:23 AM GMT
Updated: March 22, 2024 11:35 AM GMT

The authorities in Timor-Leste have detained an ex-member of the Philippine Congress who is accused of being the mastermind in the killing of a sitting governor and nine others back home in March last year.

Arnolfo Teves was detained on March 21 afternoon in Timorese capital Dili while playing golf at the Gold Driving Range, the Philippines’ Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed.

“Today’s apprehension of Teves is a testament to the power of international cooperation. It sends a clear message that no terrorist can evade justice and that nations stand united in safeguarding the safety and security of their citizens,” said Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla in a statement on March 21.

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

Teves, 52, is accused of plotting the killing of his rival Roel Degamo, the governor of Negros Oriental province and nine others on March 4, 2023.

Degamo and others were shot by gunmen during an aid distribution inside the governor’s compound in Pamplona town. The killing was dubbed the “Pamplona Massacre.”

Observers say the massacre once again highlighted blood-feuding rivalry among political clans and the existence of private mercenaries they employ to annihilate opponents.

This sparked strong calls from Church leaders and rights groups to end political violence and armed rivalry in the Catholic-majority nation.

Teves was expelled from the Philippine House of Representatives, the lower house, after being accused of the murder.

According to Remulla, the arrest of Teves “was made possible through the collaborative efforts of law enforcement agencies, including the International Police [INTERPOL], National Central Bureau [NCB] in Dili, in coordination with the East Timorese Police.”

As of March 22, Teves remains in the custody of Timorese Police while waiting for his extradition which is being processed by the NCB-Dili in coordination with the team from NCB-Manila and Dili’s Philippine Embassy.

Remulla also called on Teves to “face your long-delayed trial without setting any conditions, face the courts squarely.”

“Rest assured that the DOJ remains committed to providing regular updates on Teves’ return to the Philippines,” the justice secretary added.

Meanwhile, Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, wife of the slain governor, expressed her gratitude for the arrest of Teves.

“Words cannot express how it feels to finally see the man who terrorized our province and brutally murdered my husband," Degamo said in a post on social media on March 21.

In her statement, Degamo said that the arrest of Teves abroad at a high-end golf course “demonstrates his total disregard for our law enforcement agencies.”

“While NegOrenses [residents of Negros Oriental] suffered at the hands of the Teves Terrorist Group their leader Arnie Teves hid abroad enjoying a life of luxury… Despite all his wealth and power in the end he cannot escape justice,” she said.

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