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Arnie Teves seeking asylum in Timor-Leste — DOJ’s Remulla

Suspended Negros Oriental Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves has entered Timor-Leste to seek asylum, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Tuesday.

“Anyway, one more thing is that Mr. Teves entered Timor-Leste a week ago, a week ago, trying to seek special asylum status in Timor-Leste,” Remulla said in an ambush interview.

Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, Teves’ legal counsel, meanwhile, declined to comment. 

According to the Immigration Service of Timor Leste, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste guarantees the right of asylum “to foreigners and stateless persons persecuted or is guaranteed seriously threatened of persecution in result of activity performed in State of nationality or habitual residence.”

It states that it also guarantees asylum to those “who, fearing justifiably be persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, are unable or, owing such fear, unwilling to return to the State of nationality or residence habitual.”

However, Remulla said they do not see any political reason for the suspended lawmaker to seek asylum in Timor-Leste.

“But we don’t see any political reason for him to seek asylum in Timor-Leste. It’s really for not wanting to face the consequences of certain actions by which he’s being held to account for,” he said.

Teves, who Remulla has said appears to be the mastermind behind the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, has yet to return to the country due to concerns for his safety.

Remulla previously said Teves was going back and forth between South Korea and Cambodia.

Meanwhile, Remulla said they were informed of the lawmaker’s move by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

According to the Justice chief, officials have also written a letter to the DFA to be relayed to the Ambassador of Timor-Leste to inform them about Teves’ situation in the country.

“We have written a letter telling Timor-Leste that he’s a person of interest in murder cases and he’s being considered for designation as a terrorist by the country,” he said.

“And giving a fair warning about a person asking for asylum, may not necessarily be a good candidate for that,” he added.

The Department of Justice sought the designation and proscription of Teves as a terrorist to force him to surrender to authorities.

According to Remulla, the process started in late April.

“There will be another plenary session of the Anti-Terror Council very soon. Probably this will be on the agenda,” Remulla said.

Meanwhile, Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa told reporters that Teves had been calling him, the most recent call being on Monday.

Dela Rosa, who is in charge of the Senate's investigation into the death of Degamo, said that he chose not to answer Teves' calls in order to avoid any speculation.

"Kung nag-monitor si Arnie ngayon, pasensya ka na Arnie. Kaibigan tayo pero break muna sa communication kasi baka mamaya gawan tayo ng issue d’yan. Usap tayo dito. Kita tayo pasensya ka na, Arnie," he said.

(If you are monitoring right now, Arnie, I know that we are friends, but we must break our communication because some people might create an issue out of the phone call. Let’s meet and talk here.)

On March 4, Degamo and eight others were killed while several others were injured after an attack on the late governor’s home in Negros Oriental. The death toll due to the incident climbed to 10 on Sunday.

Teves, for his part, has repeatedly denied involvement in the attack. — with Hana Bordey/RSJ/VBL, GMA Integrated News