The Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee “unanimously” agreed not to allow suspended Negros Oriental Representative Arnolfo "Arnie" Teves Jr. to attend the panel’s investigation into the assassination of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, citing lack of jurisdiction and inter-parliamentary courtesy.
Before the panel officially started the investigation, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said the members of the committee conducted an executive session to discuss the appeal of Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, the wife of the slain governor, asking the senators not to allow “fugitive” Teves to participate via video teleconferencing.
“There is a unanimous agreement not to allow the virtual presence of Congressman Teves… There may be legal issues that will arise as to the taking of oath as a basic requirement in taking testimonies of any resource person or witness. The whereabouts of Congressman Teves is not known or definite. Thus, jurisdiction as to his oath will be taken may be questioned legally,” Dela Rosa explained.
Since there is lack of jurisdiction over Teves, the senator said they cannot cite him in contempt nor issue a subpoena duces tecum against the resource person.
Further, Dela Rosa said the senators considered the issue of inter-parliamentary courtesy since Teves is still a member of the House of Representatives even though he is currently suspended.
The appeal came a day after Dela Rosa disclosed that Teves will attend the hearing virtually.
While they decided not to allow Teves to appear virtually, Dela Rosa said the committee is not “shutting its doors” to Teves and he can attend the hearing physically to air his side on the issues.
Degamo’s appeal was backed by Senator Risa Hontiveros, urging Teves to participate physically in the Senate investigation.
“Para kay Rep. Teves, sana ay umuwi ka na para harapin ang mga isyu at kasong ipininupukol sa iyo. Sir, sa ikapapanatag ng lahat, sana po ay magpakita ka dito sa ating hearing physically at hindi virtually,” Hontiveros said.
(For Rep. Teves, hopefully you can come home already to face the issues and cases being linked to you. Sir, for the peace of mind of everyone, we hope you will attend our hearing physically and not virtually.)
After pressing the panel to urge Teves to attend the investigation in person, Dela Rosa disclosed that he had a phone conversation with the Negros Oriental solon.
Dela Rosa said Teves claimed that he is “under threat” and he will be killed if he will appear before the Senate panel to attend the investigation on Degamo’s murder.
The senator also asked Teves to disclose his whereabouts but to no avail.
In South Korea?
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, shared that his friends saw Teves in a hotel in South Korea eating in a buffet.
“I asked if they are very sure that it is Congressman Teves indeed...I spoke with four persons...na nagsabi na nandoon po siya kumakain. Hindi ko lang po alam kung ito ay sigurado na siya po yon pero apat po ang nakausap natin na nagsabi po na nandoon siya sa Lotte Hotel sa South Korea,” Villanueva said.
[I spoke with four persons who said that (Teves) was there eating. But I'm not sure if it’s confirmed but I’ve spoken with four people who said (Teves) was in Lotte Hotel in South Korea.]
In a bid to encourage the Negros Oriental lawmaker to attend the hearing physically, Dela Rosa asked Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos to assure Teves’ security should he decide to show up.
“Ako mismo magbabantay (I will personally look after him), sir. I assure you 100%,” Abalos, who attended the hearing physically, told the Senate panel.
Asked by Dela Rosa if he is willing to take accountability if Teves will be harmed, Abalos answered in the affirmative.
Dela Rosa also called on Teves to appear before the committee after Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said there is no standing warrant of arreset against Teves in relation to Degamo’s case.
“Cong. Teves, wala kang warrant. You have no reason to be arrested. Hindi ka puwedeng arestusin. Puwede kang pumunta dito, hintayin ka namin hanggang gabi bumiyahe ka dito sa Senado,” Dela Rosa said.
(Cong. Teves, you have no warrant [of arrest]. You have no reason to be arrested. You cannot be arrested. You may come here. We will wait for you until tonight to make the trip to the Senate.)
Teves’ brother, former Negros Oriental Governor Pryde Henry Teves, attended the investigation physically.
Pryde Teves was proclaimed as the winner of the 2022 gubernatorial race in Negros Oriental. However, the Commission on Elections later on ruled that Degamo is the official governor after it declared a certain “Ruel Degamo” as a nuisance candidate. This paved the way for the transfer of the votes for the latter to the slain governor.
The Comelec's decision was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Remulla earlier said Teves appears to be the main mastermind in the killing of Degamo.