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Sunday, July 14, 2024

DOJ ‘very confident’ Timor-Leste will deny Teves extradition appeal

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday expressed optimism that Timor-Leste’s Court of Appeals will deny the appeal that fugitive and expelled Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. intends to file following the extradition order issued against him.

“We are very confident that the same decision would be rendered in the motion for reconsideration or the appeal would be denied in due course by the Timor-Leste judicial authorities,” Justice Undersecretary Raul Vasquez said during a press conference.   

Vasquez pointed this out after lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, the legal counsel of Teves, bared plans to appeal the June 27 decision of the appeals court that granted the request of the Philippines to have the expelled congressman extradited.

He explained the lawyers of Teves can only file a motion for reconsideration on the decision of the Court of Appeals since Timor-Leste, which only achieved independence from Indonesia in 2002, has yet to fully establish a Supreme Court where the appeal on the extradition decision could be filed.

“They have a period of appeal of 30 days,” Vasquez said, citing Timor-Leste laws.   

Contrary to the claims of Topacio, the justice official said Teves can no longer seek political asylum in Timor-Leste.

“Political asylum was the first recourse that was availed of former congressman Arnie Teves. This was denied. They filed a motion for reconsideration. This was denied as well. So to our minds, as lawyers, that is the end of the rope on that particular aspect,” Vasquez said.   

Although the appeals court released Teves from house arrest last week, the DOJ undersecretary said the expelled legislator could still be rearrested by local authorities.   

“As far as we could see it he could be arrested as an undocumented alien,” Vasquez said.

He reminded that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has already canceled the passport of Teves upon the order of Judge Merianthe Pacita M. Zuraek of Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 51.

The RTC is handling the case against the former congressman and co-accused over their alleged involvement in the March 4, 2023 shootings in Negros Oriental where provincial governor Roel Degamo and nine others were killed.

Meanwhile, Vasquez said the government is preparing for the eventual return of Teves to the Philippines but declined to reveal details where the latter could be detained.

He assured that “it is incumbent upon the government to ensure that no harm would befall on former congressman Teves.”

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