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Arnie Teves to face House ethics probe via video conference, says lawyer

Negros Oriental Representatives Arnolfo "Arnie" Teves Jr. will participate in Monday's House ethics committee's hearing on his continued absence in Congress proceedings, his legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio said Monday.

In a press briefing in Quezon City, Topacio also said Speaker Martin Romualdez has denied the two-month leave requested by Teves, who is currently out of the country.

"May mga information na gusto niya (Teves) ibahagi sa House Committee on Ethics, kung bakit siya fine-frame-up, kung bakit hindi siya makasipot ng personal. This is a matter of life and death," Topacio said.

(He wants to share information to his colleagues, like why is he being framed up and why he can't attend the hearing in person.)

Teves, whose travel authority expired on March 9, is facing separate criminal complaints in connection with illegal firearms and killings perpetrated in Negros Oriental in 2019.

Arrested suspects in the March 4 assassination of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, meanwhile, have pointed to a certain "Cong Teves" as the one who allegedly ordered the hit on the victim.

Teves has denied having a hand in the killing of Degamo, and the Justice Department earlier said it is looking at all angles and other personalities and not just focusing its investigation on Teves.

"Magpa-participate si Congressman Teves via teleconference sa hearing mamaya. They said they are eager to hear the side of Congressman Teves. You can even vote via teleconference. Baka makita nilang valid iyong reasons ni Congressman Teves at baka maunawaan nila," Topacio added.

(He will participate via teleconference. Maybe they would deem his reasoning valid and understand.)

Topacio also dismissed calls for the government to freeze the assets of Teves and expel him from the House of Representatives by stressing that Teves is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

"They want them frozen para raw hindi makapanuhol si Congressman Teves. That is not a reason for such under our laws. Because if you do that, you assume that the suspect will bribe someone. That call is uncalled for and unsubstantiated,” Topacio said.

(They want his assets frozen so that according to them he will not be able to bribe somebody.)

Topacio cited the case of former Senator Panfilo Lacson, who was once served a warrant of arrest while he was a senator due to Dacer-Corbito double murder case.

Lacson, Topacio noted, became a fugitive but was not expelled from the Senate. Lacson, however, was ultimately cleared of the charges in connection with the double murder case.

"We have procedures laid down in the law, let us follow the law. Expel? Congressman Teves enjoys the presumption of innocence. You cannot impose expulsion on whim because you will be disenfranchising the district [he represents]," Topacio said.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said in a press conference it is possible for Teves to be expelled from the House of Representatives, depending on the vote of its members.

“That's very possible under the rules of the House, depende na 'yan sa (depending on the) voting ng House of Representatives,” he said.

“It's really up to the House to decide, its own decision in that case kasi sila lang ang pwedeng mag-decide kung may expulsion na gagawin (because only them can decide if there will be expulsion) among its members,” he added.

Asked when Teves will return to the Philippines, Remulla said they do not know yet as only the former's lawyers reached out to them.

“Hindi siya nagpaparamdam (He has yet to coordinate with us). We don't know if he's coming back or not,” he said.—Joviland Rita/KBK/AOL, GMA Integrated News