Speaker Martin Romualdez on Thursday urged Negros Oriental Representative Arnolfo "Arnie" Teves to reconsider his decision not to the return to the Philippines for the meantime amid the complaints filed against him.
Romualdez issued the statement a day after he met with Teves' legal counsel, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, and after Teves asked the House leadership to grant him a two-month leave of absence "due to very grave threat" to his and his family's lives.
"Atty. Topacio sought a private meeting with me Wednesday night to personally relay some concerns of his client. In that meeting, I reiterated my stand that Cong Arnie should return to the country and report for work at once," R0mualdez said.
"I strongly urge Cong Arnie to reconsider his decision not to return. It does not sit well for a House Member to flee the country rather than avail himself of all the legal remedies available to him," he added.
Teves has been named respondent in separate complaints in connection with several incidents of killings in Negros Oriental in 2019 and with the allegedly illegal firearms seized from his homes during police raids last week.
Romualdez said he also informed Topacio of the decision of the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges to probe Teves' continued absence after the travel authority issued to him for his personal trip to the US expired last March 9.
The Speaker said he will not stand in the way of such a probe.
"I will act accordingly after the Committee wraps up its investigation and submits its recommendation to the House leadership," he said, as he assured Teves that the House leadership "will exert all means necessary to pave the way" for his safe return to the country.
Castro to Teves
Meanwhile, House ethics panel member and ACT Teachers party-list Representative France Castro called on Teves to return to the country.
In an interview with GMA Integrated News, Castro said she does not see any justification for Teves' request for a two-month leave of absence starting March 9, the date his travel authority expired.
"Hindi ko nakita 'yung reason niya na humihingi siya ng two months. As a government employee — ako, naging teacher din ako — kapag nanghihingi ka ng ganoong katagal na leave, kailangang meron namang justification. Parang mahirap na patunayan 'yon. It's up for him to justify his leave,” Castro said.
(I don't see his reasons for asking for a two-month leave. As a government employee — and I was a former teacher — when you asked for a leave that long, you need justification. It seems like his justification is difficult to prove. )
She also said the ethics committee is being compassionate and patient with Teves.
"Ang ethics committee naman, nag-exercise siya ng compassion and patience sa aming colleague, kay Rep. Arnolfo Teves. Sana matapos na niya yung kailangan niyang mga gawin abroad," Castro said.
(The ethics committee exercises compassion and patience to our colleage, Rep. Arnolfo Teves. I hope he finishes what he's doing abroad.)
Castro also explained that according to the rules of the ethics committee, anyone being asked to explain is given 10 days to respond. But in the case of Teves, the period given was only five days.
"Kasi madali naman na, may e-mail naman na, na puwede siyang sumagot [it's easy to respond now, he can just e-mail us]," she said.
Castro also said that as far as the Makabayan bloc is concerned, Teves should be given due process.
"Sa Makabayan, bigyan natin siya ng due process. Kung meron naman siyang haharapin na kaso ay kailangan niyang harapin," she said.
(For us in Makabayan, Teves should be given due process. If there is a case against him then he should face it.)
Castro is a member of the Makabayan bloc, which is a group of progressive lawmakers in the House of Representatives. —KBK, GMA Integrated News