Catholic nuns visit the wake of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel...

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. Arnolfo Teves Jr., a former Filipino congressman accused of masterminding the brazen killings of a provincial governor and several others has been arrested in East Timor and will be deported to the Philippines, Manila officials said Friday, March 22, 2024. Credit: AP/Alan Tangcawan

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

Police arrested Arnolfo Teves Jr. while he was playing at a golf driving range 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.

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 and authorities later announced the capture of a number of suspects.

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 and said his administration will work to bring him back to the country and “spare no effort in ensuring that justice will prevail in this case.”

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.”

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.

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