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DOJ: Teves must face cases in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) will not recognize or acknowledge any effort to bring the case of expelled Negros Oriental congressman Arnolfo Teves Jr. before the United Nations rights body.

Teves’ counsel, Ferdinand Topacio, earlier said they would explore the former lawmaker’s legal options as he faces possible deportation from Timor-Leste, where he was arrested while playing golf after almost a year of staying in the Southeast Asian country, which had turned down his application for asylum.

Among the options Topacio raised was “bringing the persecution of Rep. Teves to the UN Commission on Human Rights,” saying one of Teves’ lawyers in Timor-Leste is a recognized expert in international human rights.

In response, the DOJ said it would not acknowledge any camp that “refuses to go through our own justice system.”

“The brutal crimes happened here in the Philippines. The families of the victims are here in the Philippines. So, we want justice to be served here in the Philippines,” DOJ spokesman Mico Clavano said yesterday.

Teves, tagged as the mastermind of the assassination of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo and his bodyguards as well as several civilians in March 2023, was arrested last March 21 in Dili.

He was arrested based on an International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) red notice issued against him in February. The red notice is a request to law enforcement agencies worldwide to locate and arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or similar legal action.

According to Topacio, a Timor-Leste court has extended the former lawmaker’s detention by 15 days while the government is verifying the request of the Philippines and the Interpol for his custody.

As a result, a team from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that went to Dili to take custody of Teves returned on Sunday empty handed.

In a separate television interview on March 25, Topacio said it’s the courts in Timor-Leste that would decide if Teves would be allowed to stay – and under what conditions – or sent back to the Philippines.

“Congressman Teves is not being detained in Timor-Leste for any crime committed in Timor-Leste,” he said in an interview