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Former Filipino congressman accused of orchestrating killings of governor and 8 others is arrested at golf range

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A former Filipino congressman accused of masterminding the killings of a provincial governor and several others has been arrested while playing golf in East Timor and will be deported to the Philippines, Philippine justice officials said Friday.

Police arrested Arnolfo Teves Jr. at the Top Golf Driving Range and Bar Thursday in East Timor’s capital of Dili, where he has tried to seek asylum, the Philippine Department of Justice said. His arrest had been sought through an Interpol red notice asking police worldwide to locate and apprehend him.

Teves is facing murder charges in connection with the killings of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and eight other people, including some seeking aid at his home in Pamplona town in March last year. At least 17 others, including a doctor and two army soldiers, were wounded in the attack, police said then.

Degamo’s widow, Janice Degamo, who is mayor of Pamplona municipality in Negros Oriental, hailed the arrest on Facebook and posted drone video of Teves being apprehended at the golf range.

While NegOrenses suffered at the hands of the Teves Terrorist Group their leader Arnie Teves hid abroad enjoying a life of luxury. His arrest abroad at a high-end golf course demonstrates his total disregard for our law enforcement agencies. Despite all his wealth and power in the end he cannot escape justice.
#JusticeForNegOr

Posted by Mayor Janice Vallega Degamo on Friday, March 22, 2024

“His arrest abroad at a high-end golf course demonstrates his total disregard for our law enforcement agencies,” she wrote. “Despite all his wealth and power in the end he cannot escape justice.”

At least six men armed with assault rifles and wearing military camouflage and bullet-resistant vests walked calmly into Degamo’s residential compound and opened fire in an attack that was captured on security cameras. The shooters fled in three SUVs.

Eleven suspects were arrested over the assault in the sugarcane-growing heartland of the Philippines. A twelfth suspect was killed in a shoot-out.

Teves denied any involvement in the killing of Degamo and the other victims and said without elaborating that he was set up.

The killings refocused attention on the country’s bloody political conflicts, which have been exacerbated by the existence of private armies and large numbers of illegal firearms, especially in the countryside.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said then that the attack on Degamo, who backed his presidential candidacy, was “purely political.”

Marcos commended Philippine law enforcers and their international counterparts for the arrest of Teves.

“I assure the Filipino people that we will spare no effort in ensuring that justice will prevail in this case,” Marcos said in a statement, vowing to “take all necessary actions to bring him back to the country so he can face the charges filed against him.”

The apprehension of Teves “is a testament to the power of international cooperation,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said in a statement. “It sends a clear message that no terrorist can evade justice and that nations stand united in safeguarding the safety and security of their citizens.”

Remulla asked Teves to face trial without conditions and “face the courts squarely.”

Philippines Killings
Catholic nuns visit the wake of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo at his home in Dumaguete city, Negros Oriental province, central Philippines on Monday March 6, 2023. 

Alan Tangcawan / AP


Teves has separately been implicated in the killings of three people in 2019 in Negros Oriental and violations of the country’s gun and explosives law after authorities found assault weapons and ammunition in his family’s residential compound.

Crimes and decades-long Muslim and communist insurgencies were some of the daunting problems inherited by Marcos.

In one of the country’s deadliest episodes of political violence, nearly 200 armed followers led by members of a powerful political clan blocked a convoy of a rival political family in southern Maguindanao province ahead of local elections in 2009.

The gunmen then led the 58 victims, including 32 media workers, to a nearby hilltop, where all were gunned down.

A court convicted detained key members of the Ampatuan family a decade later but many suspects in the attack remain at large.

AFP contributed to this report.

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