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House ethics panel to tackle Arnie Teves' absence on March 20

The House Committee on Ethics and Privileges is set to hold another hearing on Monday to discuss the fate of Oriental Representative Arnolfo "Arnie" Teves Jr. as House member.

Teves, who has requested for a two-month leave of absence due to "grave security threat," has yet to return to the country after traveling to the United States despite the expiration of his travel clearance on March 9.

The ethics committee has given Teves until Monday, March 20, to respond to its letter explaining his failure to return to the Philippines after his travel clearance expired.

COOP NATCCO party-list Representative Felimon Espares, who chairs the committee, confirmed to GMA Integrated News that Teves'  office has received the committee's letter already.

The media was not furnished a copy as it is confidential.

"Actually by Monday, we have our schedule. We are waiting for any reply or whatever action on the part of our colleague," Espares told GMA Integrated News.

Espares said the committee can vote on its next step on Monday if Teves does not respond to the letter or if the panel is not satisfied with his response.

"Ang situation there is that kung walang reply [if there is no response], we can rule in our committee and this is always a collegial action, not by the chair. I am only presiding," he said.

"Kung may reply, we will do the process and then if the committee is not satisfied with that, still the committee has its own action on that. We might be able to have an appropriate ruling."

Espares admitted that they cannot compel Teves to physically attend the hearing although he is hoping that Teves will consider it.

"We cannot compel him but of course we are happy if he can appear personally with us. Virtually, that's his option. But of course, what we are trying really is that mas OK sana kung physical nandiyan siya," Espares said.

Espares said he is hoping that his committee can rule on the case immediately and forward it for plenary action before Congress goes on recess from March 25 to May 7.

"If indeed we can transmit our ruling immediately to the Committee on Rules for appropriate action, it might be able to agenda before we have our break," he said.

"Kasi mahaba-haba itong break namin. Mahirap naman na wala ring nagawa ang Congress. And we cannot do things there once we have our break," Espares added.

Teves is facing complaints in connection with several killings in Negros Oriental in 2019 and with the alleged illegal firearms the police seized from his houses during a series of raids last week.

Arrested suspects in the March 4 assassination of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo have named a certain "Cong Teves"  as the one who ordered the killing. Teves has denied involvement in the killing—KBK, GMA Integrated News