Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Tuesday he had discussed with Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta the possibility of handing over fugitive former Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr., who is facing murder charges and was tagged a terrorist by the government, to the Philippines.
“I just told him that we will be filing the necessary information, the necessary letters, to his office to inform them formally of the charges pending against Mr. Teves,” Remulla said in revealing his meeting with the Pacific Island nation leader on Saturday.
“The duties of rendition are there and that under the United Nations agreement on terrorism, there is a duty for member-states to render unto the prosecuting country the body of any terrorist so that he may be held for trial,” he added.
Rendition refers to the transfer of persons from one jurisdiction to another, following prescribed legal proceedings.
Teves has been charged with murder over the killing of former Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and nine others in Pamplona town last March, and the killing of three others in the same province in 2019.
In September, a Manila City regional trial court issued arrest warrants against Teves and three others over the Pamplona killings, while courts in Negros also issued arrest warrants for the 2019 killings.
“It was on October 4 that the arrest warrant for the 2019 murders has been issued. So there are a lot actually a lot of outstanding warrants against Congressman Teves,” Remulla said.
Earlier reports indicated that Teves was hiding in Timor-Leste after having tried and failed to seek a special asylum status there.
According to Remulla, Ramos-Horta – who came to Manila on a two-day official visit last week — told him that he would wait for the letters.
The Justice Secretary believed Ramos-Horta would act upon “favorably” since the Timor-Leste leader supposedly asked “about the judicial system, about how things are decided, about how we look upon situations.”
“Many situations were brought to me by the good President and I was able to answer properly. In fact, he has extended an invitation to my office to go to Timor-Leste to speak about the justice system, the criminal justice system, the relationship of law enforcement and other things that will be good for a new country to be able to take note of, very early in its inception,” he said.
Hailing the Philippines’ legal traditions as one of the longest and oldest in Southeast Asia and at par with the rest of the world, Remulla said Timor-Leste, as a new country, could learn a few things from the country’s legal system.
Meanwhile, Remulla noted that former senator Manny Pacquiao frequently visits Timor-Leste and was seen in the company of Teves at one point.
“Teves was seen welcoming Pacquiao in Timor-Leste one time. I have no other reports on that matter but his name was mentioned among those prominent Filipinos who goes to Timor-Leste,” he said.
“I don’t know what he does there or what he envisions to be his role there but his name was mentioned as among the frequent visitors in Timor-Leste. And I would like to find out from the good senator if there is anything we can do to help him also since we are furthering our relations with Timor-Leste,” he added.
Pacquiao’s camp has yet to comment on Remulla’s statement.