MANILA (4TH UPDATE) — Suspended Rep. Arnolfo Teves, Jr. might return to the Philippines on Wednesday, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla disclosed on Tuesday.
“May dumating na balita sa atin kanina na marahil ay papauwi na si Teves bukas. Iyon 'yung sinabi sa akin kanina ng isang kausap ko. Si Congressman Teves ay pauwi na raw bukas ng umaga. 'Di ko alam kung anong oras,” he said.
The Justice chief did not provide additional details as to where the embattled lawmaker might land on Wednesday but he confirmed it will be at an airport, citing a “reliable source” from the airport.
“[This] was stated to me by a reliable source or whom I consider to be a reliable source as he may have access to flight data into the country and he’s usually a very reliable source for those who come in and out of the country,” he said.
Teves has been outside the country since he was implicated in the assassination of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and 9 others in the governor’s house in Pamplona, Negros Oriental on March 4.
He was initially in the United States and was also reported to be in Cambodia before he sought asylum in Timor-Leste. That asylum bid however was denied and he is seeking reconsideration of the ruling.
Remulla did not say if he has no definitive information on the ruling on Teves’ appeal or his whereabouts.
“He can be in Timor-Leste or another country but I think it will be Timor-Leste. I think that the countries by which he can enter are already very limited considering that he’s already on Interpol notice and things are becoming more difficult for Mr. Teves to go around. At least that’s what was told to me by my reliable source,” he explained.
The Justice chief said he received information about Teves’s possible return on Tuesday afternoon but the same rumors had already spread Tuesday morning.
Teves’ lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, Jr., denied the information in a message to ABS-CBN News on Tuesday morning.
“Fake news. If it's because of the denial of the application for asylum, I was informed that a judicial appeal shall act as a supersedeas to the five-day notice to leave,” he said.
In an interview with TeleRadyo, Topacio said Teves might stay in Timor-Leste while the appeal on his asylum request is ongoing.
The legal counsel, meanwhile, said he cannot confirm if Teves is on the Interpol Blue Notice, which would allow the Philippines to monitor the movement of the lawmaker.
"Kung sinabi ni Sec. Remulla na may Blue notice ng Interpol at ng NBI DOJ—na miyembro ng Interpol—si Rep. Arnulfo Teves, dapat sigurado 'yan," Topacio said.
Should Teves’ return on Wednesday push through, Remulla said the timing will coincide with the National Bureau of Investigation’s filing of murder raps against Teves before the Department of Justice by lunchtime on Wednesday.
“Well and good. It means that he can answer the process of law if a case is filed against him tomorrow, then it can be immediately served to him so that periods can run accordingly so he can file his counter-affidavit and the cases can be resolved by the panel of prosecutors depending on his counter-affidavit,” he said.
The justice department in late April moved to label Teves as a terrorist over his refusal to return to the Philippines due to alleged threats to his life.
Remulla clarified there is no arrest warrant yet against Teves. Only 11 suspects in the Degamo killing are facing murder charges in court so far, excluding Teves.
“Walang arrest warrant. Ang alam ko, law enforcement agencies have been placed on alert so he can be secured properly. So we would not be surprised by the arrival,” he said.