Manila court orders DFA to cancel passport of ex-NegOr Rep. Teves
A Manila court has ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to cancel the passport of expelled Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. who is facing multiple charges and has been declared a fugitive from justice, the Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed on Friday.
“Although the freedom to travel is guaranteed, it does not give one an unlimited license to abuse and use it as he pleases using the Bill of Rights as a Protective Clout,” the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 51 said in an order signed by Presiding Judge Merianthe Pacita Zuraek.
The court cited several laws that provide for the impairment of the right to travel, including the Human Security Act of 2010, which restricts the right to travel of a person charged with terrorism even when the individual is out on bail.
However, in Teves’ case, his designation as a terrorist by the Anti-Terrorism Council in August last year justified the revocation of his travel documents, the court said.
Still out of the country?
Teves, who is reportedly hiding in East Timor after failing to secure a political asylum, is facing murder charges for being pointed as the mastermind behind the assassination of his political rival, provincial Gov. Roel Degamo, who was killed on March 4, 2023.
The same court on Sept. 5, 2023, issued a warrant of arrest against him but could not serve it as Teves was not in the country.
“In the normal course of events, after the issuance of a warrant of arrest, an accused is either arrested or voluntarily surrenders. In either case, an accused eager to prove or assert his innocence longs for the wheels of justice to move,” the Manila court said.
To ensure the efficient administration of justice, it noted that the court works within strict timelines wherein after a person’s arrest or voluntary surrender, he would be arraigned and the trial proceeds.
“Not in this case. Accused Teves Jr., in utter disrespect of the court and willful disregard of the law, refuses to yield,” the court said.
“By his refusal to come back to face his cases and his consistent flight mode, he deliberately continues to frustrate the ends of justice,” it added.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, for his part, vowed that the government would uphold the rule of law and “ensure that all individuals, regardless of their status, are held accountable for their actions.”
Ferdinand Topacio, legal counsel of Teves, in a statement on Friday said that the cancellation of his client’s passport was not final and executory as they could still avail of legal remedies to reverse the RTC’s ruling.
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