MANILA — (UPDATED) The widow of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo on Wednesday welcomed Timor-Leste's decision junking the request of suspended lawmaker Arnolfo Teves Jr. for political asylum.
Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo urged Teves Jr. to face the charges against him instead of claiming political persecution.
"I believe that is a very good decision of the government of East Timor for denying him because after all, what happened to my husband is not a political thing," she told ANC's "Rundown".
"He is pointed as mastermind of [the] murder of my husband and several others. And just like what our DOJ is saying, he has to come home and face the charges that will be filed against him," she added.
The lawmaker has insisted he and his clan had nothing to do with Governor Degamo's assassination.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said authorities were eyeing the cancellation of Teves' passport, which would make traveling difficult for the lawmaker.
But Teves' lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said "there is no basis for the cancellation of [his client's] passport at this time," citing that there are only three instances when a passport may be cancelled and the lawmaker is not in any of the situations stated.
"There are only three instances when a Philippine passport may be cancelled: when one is a fugitive from justice; when one has been convicted of a crime; and when the passport was fraudulently acquired or has been tampered with," Topacio said in a statement.
"We are ready and willing to participate in any judicial proceeding where the rules are clear and the playing field is level. I hope Mr. [Jesus Crispin] Remulla can hear himself and realize the preposterousness of a gambling group being engaged in terrorism, assuming without conceding, that Rep. Teves is indeed part of such a group," he added.
The justice department on Tuesday said Teves entered Timor-Leste about a week ago in an attempt to secure special asylum status. His request was denied, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced later the same day.
The DFA added that Teves was given 5 days to depart Timor-Leste and that he could also file an appeal regarding the decision.
According to its immigration service, Timor-Leste grants 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".
Asylum is also granted 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," it added.
The Department of Justice in April moved to label Teves Jr. as a terrorist over his refusal to return to the country. He had cited alleged threats to his life in refusing to come home.