Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said he had raised with the president of Timor-Leste the possibility of handing over former Negros Oriental Representative Arnolfo Teves, Jr. 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 about his meeting with Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta over the weekend.
“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 is the transfer of persons from one jurisdiction to another, following prescribed legal proceedings.
Teves is facing murder charges over the killing of former Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and nine others in Negros Oriental’s Pamplona town in March this year, and the killing of three others also in Negros in 2019.
In September, a Manila 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.
“October 4 pa na-issue ‘yung arrest warrant for the 2019 murders. So there are a lot actually a lot of outstanding warrants against Congressman Teves,” Remulla said.
Teves is reportedly hiding in Timor-Leste, after having tried and failing to seek special asylum status.
Asked for the reaction of the Timor-Leste president, Remulla said Ramos-Horta told him he would wait for the letters.
But Remulla said he believed they would be acted upon “favorably” because the Timor-Leste president 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 added.
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.
“I brought up to his attention the three treaties which he can possibly sign — the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, which is a standard treaty that we sign with the friendly states; the Extradition Treaty, which is a basic agreement among states so that people can be held for trial under the judicial systems, and the other one of course is the Transfer of Sentenced Persons that can apply,” he said.
“Filipinos sometimes go to jail in Timor-Leste even early in the day and that is something that will be worth it because many of them actually end up guilty talaga. But some of them have no place in their legal system. That’s why they appreciate the input and the point of view being put forward about the criminal justice system in the Philippines,” he said.
In the same press conference, Remulla revealed 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 go to Timor-Leste,” he said.
“I don’t know what he does there or what he envisions 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. (ABS-CBN News)