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House ethics panel to discuss Teves' absence, assures him of due process

The House Committee on Ethics and Privileges conducted an executive session on Wednesday morning for its motu proprio investigation into the absence without official leave of Negros Oriental Representative Arnolfo Teves Jr.

Committee Chair Felimon Espares, in an interview with media before the start of the executive session, said they will determine if Teves violated any rule of the House of Representatives.

“This is with regards to the leave of absence na hindi na na-approve. So the House needs to determine whether or not may violations ba. And of course, to protect the image of the House,” Espares explained.

(This is with regards to the leave of absence that was not approved. So the House needs to determine whether or not there were violations.)

Teves’ travel authority for his personal trip to the United States expired on March 9, 2023. House Secretary General Reginald Velasco said the lawmaker requested for an extension of his travel authority.

Speaker Martin Romualdez had already called on Teves to return to the country and report back to work.

But the speaker revealed that in a phone conversation with Teves from an undetermined location, Teves expressed fears for his and his family’s safety.

Teves is being linked to the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and several others.

“Pinapauwi. So kung wala talagang dahilan na bakit hindi siya makauwi, bakit hanggang ngayon, wala pa?” Espares asked about Teves’ defiance of the speaker’s call.

(He is being asked to go home. So if there is no reason why he could not go home, how come he has not yet returned up to now?)

When asked what courses of action the committee may take against Teves in case it determines there were violations committed, Espares said, “Depends on the members… Of course, we are on the administrative aspect to really recommend whatever disciplinary actions… Usually ganoon naman, suspension. Pero kung come to worse, the House, according to our rule naman, may expulsion at saka dropping from the rolls.”

(It is usually like that, suspension. But if it comes to worse, the House, according to our rule, will have to resort to expulsion and dropping from the rolls.)

Espares assured Teves he will be given due process.

He also explained that hearings of the ethics committee are always closed to the public, in accordance with the rules of the House of Representatives.

“This is confidential meeting because we are tackling the House members which we need to protect and that’s part of our House rules,” Espares said.

When asked if a committee decision can be expected before Congress goes on recess starting March 25, 2023, Espares said that will be decided upon by the committee.

He however added that if they fail to muster a quorum on Wednesday, the hearing will be moved to a later date.

The ethics committee has 17 members and the presence of five members constitutes a quorum.

Police on Friday raided houses belonging to Teves in Negros Oriental in search of loose firearms.  

Complaints have been filed against six people arrested during the said raids, among them Teves' secretary, police said Tuesday.

Teves' camp however on Monday said the lawmaker does not own the firearms allegedly retrieved from his houses.

His lawyer Atty. Ferdinand Topacio on Friday said Teves will face the allegations of murder against him. —KG, GMA Integrated News