End of a fugitive’s run

End of a fugitive’s run

/ 05:13 AM March 28, 2024
End of a fugitive's run

After going on the lam for several months, former congressman Arnolfo Teves Jr. was arrested on March 21 in Timor-Leste by East Timorese police pursuant to a “red notice” issued by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).

A red notice is a request to law enforcement authorities worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending his or her extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) sought Interpol’s assistance after multiple charges for murder, frustrated murder, and attempted murder of then Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and nine other persons on March 4, 2023 had been filed against him.


Teves was also accused of complicity in the killing of three people in 2019 and for violation of gun-control laws in connection with the high-powered weapons and rounds of ammunition found in his family’s premises.


Expelled from the House

Thereafter, the Anti-Terrorism Council named him and the armed group that he allegedly coddled as a terrorist organization. He was later expelled from the House of Representatives for disorderly behavior and for violation of the Code of Conduct of the House.

The House members did not take kindly to his prolonged unauthorized absences, his application for political asylum in Timor-Leste (which was rejected), and his indecent behavior in his social media post.

The actions taken against him happened while he was abroad, as he was initially on an authorized leave from the House to undergo medical treatment in the United States.

In spite of repeated pleas from his House colleagues to return to the Philippines to face the charges against him, Teves refused to do so because he claimed there were serious threats to his life.

He opted to be a fugitive from justice until his luck run out in Timor-Leste.


Although his extradition would still be passed upon by a Timor-Leste court, for which he had reportedly engaged the services of prominent lawyers in that country, it would just be a matter of time before he is brought back to the Philippines.


Timor-Leste President José Ramos-Horta, who made a state visit to the country last November, had publicly expressed approval of Teves’ extradition. That stance is expected to be accorded serious consideration by the court. Besides, Timor-Leste, which recently entered into several bilateral agreements with the Philippines, has nothing to gain (and everything to lose) in delaying or, worse, stopping the extradition.

Once repatriated, Teves would, for security reasons, be detained at the National Bureau of Investigation or the Philippine National Police.

Tricks in and out of the courtroom

Although the DOJ had earlier said that the evidence against Teves is strong, his prosecution and conviction are not going to be easy.

Teves has the resources to pay for the services of lawyers who know all the tricks in and out of the courtroom to delay his trial or engage in acts that would make it difficult for the government to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Recall that the alleged gunmen who earlier pointed to Teves as their mastermind had recanted their statements and claimed that they were coerced or intimidated by the police into admitting to the crimes and implicating Teves.

What eerily stands out from that recantation is it was made after they were assisted (from out of the blue) by lawyers who were formerly connected with the DOJ in various supervisory capacities and whose services do not come cheap.

As a rule, courts do not give credence to recantation of written statements unless there is clear and convincing evidence that they were given under duress or force.

Witness protection program

Given the possibility that the court may disallow those statements to be used as evidence against Teves and the alleged gunmen, the DOJ may have to rely primarily on physical or forensic evidence, e.g., ballistic tests on the guns confiscated from the suspects, to prove the crimes they’ve been accused of.

It would be a challenge to the DOJ to be able to present other witnesses in light of the strong political influence and intimidating presence of the Teves clan in the crime scene.

Under these circumstances, the DOJ may have to ask the Supreme Court to allow the hearing of the cases to be held in Metro Manila, instead of in Pamplona, Negros Oriental, where the crimes were committed, to ensure their peaceful conduct.

And this may a good occasion for the DOJ to avail of the witness protection program for the benefit of credible witnesses who may want to testify but are worried about their safety in case they do so.

How things would play out in the trial of Teves and the suspects, which could take years, remains to be seen.

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But one thing is sure, the arrest of Teves has validated the saying “You can run, but you cannot hide. Sooner or later, the long arm of the law will catch up with you.”

TAGS: Arnolfo Teves Jr., fugitive, opinion

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