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Teves freed, rearrested in Timor-Leste

MANILA, Philippines — Expelled lawmaker Arnolfo Teves Jr., tagged as the mastermind of the March 2023 assassination of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo, was released from detention in Timor-Leste but later rearrested.

According to his lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, Teves – detained pending his trial for extradition – was released because the Philippine government’s request for his extradition “was made out of time and in a manner that is not sanctioned by practice and customary international law.”

“In other words, our government screwed up. Thus, his imprisonment was declared illegal,” Topacio said.

But the Department of Justice (DOJ) clarified last night that Teves was rearrested and taken into custody by the Polícia Nacional of Timor-Leste at the Becora Prison in Dili to continue to stand trial for extradition.

Topacio said judicial proceedings in relation to Teves’ stay in Timor-Leste begin today.

Teves will attend the proceedings as well as witnesses, including former human rights commissioner Wilhelm Soriano, who will be presented as an expert in human rights.

Soriano will testify on human rights violations in the Philippines “that should bar extradition,” Topacio revealed.

“The road to justice for Mr. Teves will be long and hard, bloody and painful, but we will never surrender,” he added.

Last night, DOJ spokesman Mico Clavano expressed hope the extradition proceedings against Teves would be successful, adding that the former congressman may also still be deported “depending on the direction taken by the Timor-Leste government in coordination with the Philippines.”

Clavano chided Topacio’s “misleading and highly irresponsible” statements regarding Teves’ release, adding these were “an insult to both countries.”

He added that the DOJ was able to submit all requirements ahead of time and in a manner fully compliant with Timor-Leste’s laws, contrary to Topacio’s claims.

“His (Teves) release and subsequent re-arrest should not be taken as hindrance to the process but simply a part of it. We appreciate the steps currently being undertaken by the Timor-Leste government to remove him from their territory and we eagerly anticipate his return to the Philippines so