Former politician accused of killing governor caught in Timor-Leste

Tragic: A file pic of Catholic nuns visiting the wake of Degamo at his home in Dumaguete city, Negros Oriental province. Degamo was among nine people killed when gunmen wearing military-style uniforms entered his home and opened fire on March 4, 2023.— AP

A Filipino former congressman accused of organising the killing of a provincial governor has been arrested at a golf driving range in Timor-Leste, the Philippine Department of Justice said.

Arnolfo Teves was the alleged mastermind of the March 2023 attack, which killed Roel Degamo, then-governor of the central province of Negros Oriental, and nine others.

Police in Timor-Leste detained Teves at a golf driving range in the capital Dili on Thursday after Interpol issued a “red notice” for his arrest, the justice department said in a statement late Thursday.

Teves is in custody awaiting extradition to the Philippines where he faces “multiple murder charges”, the statement said.

Teves has previously denied involvement in Degamo’s murder.

Gunmen wearing military-style uniforms entered Degamo’s home and opened fire on March 4, killing nine, including the governor, in the country’s deadliest political attack in years. A tenth victim died two months later.

Eleven suspects were arrested over the assault. A twelfth suspect was killed in a shoot-out.

Teves’s brother, Henry, was unseated as governor of Negros Oriental after the election commission declared in September 2022 that Degamo was the rightful winner of the election earlier that year following a vote count.

The month before Degamo was killed, the Supreme Court upheld the decision.

Teves was expelled from the House of Representatives in August 2023 after he refused to return to the Philippines to face the murder allegations.

The government also declared him and his brother Henry as “terrorist individuals”.

“The capture of Teves only proves that through concerted efforts and determination, terrorism can be thwarted and peace preserved,” Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla said.

Degamo’s widow welcomed Teves’s arrest.

“Words cannot express how it feels to finally see the man who terrorised our province and brutally murdered my husband surrounded by police,” Janice Degamo, who is mayor of Pamplona municipality in Negros Oriental, said in a Facebook post. — AFP

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