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MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives, in a rare move, suspended Negros Oriental 3rd District Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr., the Visayan lawmaker entangled in a string of controversies, including the killing of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo.
A total of 292 lawmakers unanimously voted on Wednesday, March 22, to suspend Teves.
The ethics committee forwarded its recommendation to the plenary, on the basis that Teves showed disorderly behavior when he stayed abroad with expired travel clearance and defied orders to return home and perform his congressional duties.
“This case became a celebrated one because it has put the institution with different views and perspectives surrounding his failure to return to the country despite the expiration of his travel clearance. This amounts to questioning the institutional moral foundation to protect its integrity, dignity and reputation as a mode of self-preservation,” said committee chairman Felimon Espares.
“Under our leadership, the House of Representatives will never ever countenance any conduct unbecoming of a House member,” Speaker Martin Romualdez asserted in a subsequent speech to mark the last plenary session before the Holy Week break.
Suspension, which lasts 60 days, is the second highest form of penalty for errant House members under Section 143 of House rules. The most severe is expulsion, and the lightest is a reprimand.
Under Section 10 of the same document, a suspended lawmaker, which is barred from attending sessions, “shall be denied salary, other compensation, office space and other privileges to which members are entitled as of the date the bar becomes effective.”
It is rare for the House to sanction one of its own. The last time in recent history was in 2018, when the House reprimanded then-ACTS OFW representative John Bertiz after a video that showed him confronting a security checker at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport went viral.
Denied to participate virtually
Teves previously asked the committee if he could join the hearing virtually, but the panel did not grant his request.
The Visayan lawmaker, in a March 20 letter to House Majority Leader Mannix Delipe, also asked permission to deliver a privilege speech in the plenary via Zoom that day, but Monday’s session ended with no Teves in sight.
Teves is under investigation for remaining out of the country after the travel clearance issued to him expired on March 9. The House had allowed him to travel to the US for medical treatment.
Romualdez has repeatedly appealed to Teves to return to the country and face allegations in connection with the killing of Degamo.
But Teves, in his latest video statement on Tuesday, said he fears Romualdez won’t be able to guarantee his safety from supposed threats to his life despite the Speaker’s assurances.
He also floated a theory that there is an “operation” against him in the House.
“How many days have I only been absent? Why is the ethics committee questioning that already? Why do we not release the complete attendance records of lawmakers in the 17th, 18th, and 19th Congress?” he said.
Teves’ camp has also written to Romualdez, seeking a two-month leave of absence from the chamber, but the Speaker’s office maintained that the ethics committee has jurisdiction on the matter.
Suspects in Degamo’s killing claimed a certain “Congressman Teves” was the brains behind the gruesome incident.
Since March, he has been slapped with numerous criminal complaints, some of which are in connection with at least three killings in his province in 2019, and others in relation to illegal possession of firearms. – Rappler.com