House of Representatives

Why Makabayan lawmakers abstained from House vote to expel Teves

Dwight de Leon

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Why Makabayan lawmakers abstained from House vote to expel Teves

MAKABAYAN. In this composite photo are Kabataan Representative Raoul Manuel, Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas, and ACT Teachers Representative France Castro.

Photos from House press and public affairs bureau; Graphics by Nico Villarete/Rappler

(2nd UPDATE) Wednesday's vote was not exactly smooth-sailing, having been delayed for hours after some lawmakers questioned why the ethics committee report mentioned Teves' terrorist designation as one of the bases for expulsion

MANILA, Philippines – Out of 268 lawmakers who participated in plenary proceedings on the case of now-expelled Negros Oriental Congressman Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves, no one cast a negative vote, but three House members – all from Makabayan bloc – abstained.

These lawmakers are ACT Teachers Representative France Castro, Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan Representative Raoul Manuel.

They said the inclusion in the House committee report of Teves’ designation as a terrorist by the Philippine government bothered them.

“In the first place, the committee report should not have included what was being pressed on by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) which is a very questionable body in our country right now,” Manuel said, explaining his abstention on Wednesday night, August 16.

Why Makabayan lawmakers abstained from House vote to expel Teves
What the report actually says

In House committee report number 717, Teves’ terrorist tag was brought up numerous times.

The statement of facts noted that the ATC, in its July resolution, identified Teves as the leader of a terrorist group.

The section on issues asked whether the designation as a terrorist constituted disorderly behavior.

Most importantly, the terrorist tag was listed in the findings and discussion.

“The designation of Rep. A. Teves. Jr. as a terrorist by the Anti-Terrorism Council under its Resolution No. 43 reflects discredit on the House of Representatives,” an underlined paragraph as stated in section 4-B of the report read.

“By the foregoing designation of Rep. A. Teves. Jr. as a terrorist, he has clearly failed to comply with Section 141 (a), Rule XX of the Rules of the House of Representatives, 19th Congress, which directs a Member to act ‘at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House,'” the report also read.

Why Makabayan lawmakers abstained from House vote to expel Teves
Cause of delay

House Speaker Martin Romualdez personally opened Wednesday’s plenary session at exactly 3 pm. It’s not every day that he directly presides over the session – he usually delegates to other deputy speakers – so it meant something big was about to happen.

But numerous temporary suspensions, an impromptu closed-door meeting, and a public, off-microphone huddle on the floor led by Romualdez pushed back the actual deliberation on the actual committee report on Teves’ case to 5:38 pm.

Gabriela’s Brosas – who is assistant minority leader – said the delay was because Makabayan only received a copy of the committee report 45 minutes into the plenary session, so they had to ask the House leadership why Teves’ terrorist designation was included in the reasons for expulsion.

“[Romualdez] asked us what the problem is. We said we will not agree [to the inclusion of the terrorist provision], we would have to speak about it in the plenary. Then he said, the committee report sponsor would just not include that particular section on terrorist designation as among the bases for expulsion. That was the compromise,” Brosas told Rappler on Thursday, August 17.

“But we asked if that would still be included in the committee report. He said, ‘We cannot recommit.’ Because our question is: Why are we rushing this? Why can’t we return the report first to the committee?” she added.

People, Person, Adult
HUDDLE. Speaker Martin Romualdez addresses concerns of the Makabayan bloc prior to the vote on Teves’ expulsion. Photo from House press and public affairs bureau
‘Weaponized in the future’

In the end, upon inquiries on the floor from ACT Teachers Representative France Castro and Iloilo 1st District Representative Janette Garin, ethics committee chairman Felimon Espares of COOP NATCCO clarified that Teves’ terrorist classification was just part of the “discussion” in the report, but not the main reason for kicking him out of office as mentioned in the report’s findings.

Brosas said the mention of Teves’ terrorist designation was “cured in the plenary,” a detail also confirmed to Rappler by Espares later on Thursday. But the Makabayan bloc still abstained because the Anti-Terrorism Council’s move remained part of the report’s statement of facts.

“We have clearly questioned ATC’s power to designate any individual as a terrorist, so what we wanted was to remove that particular section because we thought that was arbitrary,” Brosas said.

In Teves’ written defense, he had said that the ATC’s move to declare him a terrorist is “political persecution” without legal basis.

Brosas also argued that the citation of the ATC could set a dangerous precedent that could make opposition lawmakers vulnerable to attacks in the future.

“The legislative is one branch, the judiciary is a separate branch. You do not not impinge on each other. We have said that giving ATC broad powers is wrong. We are consistent in saying it could be weaponized in other cases. This is one of the examples. This should not be used arbitrarily,” she said.

Why Makabayan lawmakers abstained from House vote to expel Teves
Others explain stand

A total of 311 House members were deemed present during the plenary session on Wednesday, but since 268 people either cast a vote or formally abstained, it meant 43 other lawmakers would be listed as “did not vote.”

Among them is Basilan Representative and Liberal Party member Mujiv Hataman who, in a statement, maintained he did not agree with the use of Teves’ terrorist designation as basis in its recommendation.

“It is clear that objectives of terrorism include sowing fear among the public, attempting to overthrow the government, or causing public emergency to undermine public safety. All of these are not present in the cases filed against Teves,” said Hataman, who is also House deputy minority leader.

“We are setting a dangerous precedent in this ethics case against Congressman Teves by using his designation as a terrorist as one of the bases for his expulsion. It is my firm belief that that basis should have been stricken off the committee report,” he added.

Lanao del Sur 1st District Representative Zia Alonto Adiong, meanwhile, submitted a written explanation on his vote to expel Teves.

“His direct insubordination to the calls for his appearance before the House of Representatives is a clear and flagrant violation of our rules,” the assistant majority leader said.

“This is besides the fact that he openly fled both his duty and the administration of justice, even to the point of seeking asylum in a foreign country which constitutes abandonment of office if not dereliction of duties,” Adiong added.

Later on Thursday, Teves found his first ally in the House after former speaker and Davao Del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez issued a statement saying he had formally asked Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe to record his “no” vote on the motion to expel Teves.

“Let due process take its course. Without law and due process, the definition of what justice is simply becomes whatever those in power say it is. How can that be right?” Alvarez said.

It is unclear if House staff committed a clerical oversight in failing to record Alvarez’s “no” vote, or if Alvarez was trying to belatedly change congressional records on how he participated in Wednesday’s proceedings. –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.