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House unanimously votes to suspend Arnie Teves for 60 days

The House of Representatives has unanimously slapped a 60-day suspension on Negros Oriental Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves, Jr. over his continued absence in legislative proceedings amid an expired travel authority.

This developed after the House plenary, with 292 yes votes, zero no votes, and zero abstentions, adopted the recommendations made by the House ethics and privileges panel, who found Teves guilty of “disorderly conduct affecting the dignity, integrity and reputation of the House of Representatives in accordance with the House Rules.”

“After thorough deliberation and observation of due process, the committee hereby recommends to the House of Representatives the imposition of penalty of 60 days suspension from the service upon Representative Teves for disorderly conduct,” House ethics and privileges chairperson Felipe Espares said in his sponsorship speech of committee report 472.

House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro of ACT Teachers party-list said her vote for Teves’ suspension is also a vote for imposing sanctions against anybody who violates House rules.

“Ang pagboto ng yes ng representasyong ito ay may kalakip na pasubali, na dapat ipatupad ang mga alituntunin ng Kamara para panagutin ang mga kinatawan nito sa kanilang mga tungkulin at obligasyon sa ating mga mamamayan ng pantay at walang pinipili,” Castro said.

(Our yes vote comes with the coletilla that implementing the House rules in making our members accountable to their constituents should be fairly and justly applied.)

Speaker Martin Romualdez of Leyte, in a separate speech, told his colleagues that the House will never tolerate bad conduct among its ranks.

“Under our leadership, the House will never ever countenance any conduct unbecoming [of] a House member,” Romualdez said.

Romualdez earlier issued Teves an authority to travel authority from February 27 to  March 9.

Teves later asked Romualdez, in a letter dated March 9, to grant him a two-month leave of absence, citing security fears.

On March 15, the House ethics and privileges panel gave Teves five days to explain his continued absence in House proceedings.

Romualdez also urged Teves to reconsider his decision not to return to the Philippines.

Manila Representative Joel Chua initially voted against Teves’ suspension but later changed his vote to yes “after reading the Committee Report.”

The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) earlier this month filed three murder complaints against Teves over killings carried out in 2019.

Suspects in the March 4 assassination of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo also claim that a "Cong Teves" ordered the hit.

Teves has denied involvement in the crimes but has refused to return to the Philippines from an overseas trip.

In a video message on Tuesday, Teves said that he fears for his safety and that he is also a victim in this situation.

“Ang hinihingi ko lang naman fairness, at hindi yung ididiin yung isang tao.  Hinihiling ko rin sana na tignan ang lahat ng anggulo,” he said.

“Paano natin makukuha ang totoong hustisya dito? Pareho lang kami ng pamilya Degamo na biktima dito. Ginagamit ako ng marami dyan for political milage. Nanawagan ako sa ating mahal na Presidente sobra na yung ginagawa ng ibang tao sa gobyerno sa akin, masyado na nila akong dinidiin, kinakawawa, at inaapi,” he added.

On Wednesday, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. urged Teves to return home. 

The only advice I can give to Cong. Arnie is that habang tumatagal ito, mas nagiging mahirap ang sitwasyon. So mas maaga kang makauwi mas marami pang option ang mangyayari pero kapag masyadong nang late, mapipilitan na ang gobyerno. We have to move without any discussions with you," he said. — BM, GMA Integrated News