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House suspends Arnie Teves another 60 days, takes away his committee memberships

The House of Representatives on Wednesday imposed another 60-day suspension without pay on Negros Oriental Representative Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves, Jr. over his continued absence from the chamber on an expired travel authority.

With 285 yes votes, zero no votes and one abstention, the House adopted the recommendations made by the House ethics and privileges panel chaired by COOP-NATCCO party-list Representative Felimon Espares.

“His [Teves] actions constitute violation of code of conduct and disorderly behavior warranting disciplinary action. [As a result], the House committee on ethics and privileges recommends to the House of Representatives the imposition of the following penalties: 60 day suspension due to disorderly behavior, revocation of all his rights and privileges as member of the House in said period, and forfeiture of all committee membership,”  Espares said.

“He remains abroad, fails to perform his duties and responsibilities as members of the House and commits acts detrimental to the House and its members,” he added.

The Department of Justice has tagged Teves as one of the suspects in the March 4 assassination of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo, as well as certain killings in the province in 2019.

Teves, however, is adamant that he has nothing to do with the crimes and that he cannot return to the Philippines due to grave threats to his life. In March, the House suspended him for 60 days due to his absence.

At least 10 witnesses in the Degamo murder have since recanted their testimony, including those who implicated Teves.

Teves’ legal counsel, Ferdinand Topacio, has also maintained that his client’s refusal to go home is justified.

“He has no obligation to come home. The Supreme Court recognizes that every person has the right to self preservation,” he said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

“Why is everybody asking him to come home when he already said there are serious threats to his life here in the Philippines? We have received information as early as December last year, long before the killing of Governor Degamo, that authorities are planning to plant bullets, guns and explosives in his property to pin him down,” Topacio added.

Further, Topacio said that the suspects’ subsequent recantation of their testimony just shows that the government’s case against Teves stands on hollow ground.

“There is really a concerted effort on the part of the government officials to go after Congressman Teves. But they are now being bothered by their conscience, that is why there are people recanting [their testimony],” he said.

'Integrity of Congress'

Rizal Representative Jack Duavit, a party-mate of Teves in the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), called on Teves to come home, saying the Negros Oriental lawmaker’s action of seeking political asylum “besmirches the state.”

“When you apply for political asylum, you are making the accusation that: your country does not have the capacity to offer protection for those persecuted, your government is unwilling to provide protection for the persecuted, and worst of all, it may also imply that your government is the perpetrator of such persecution. These accusations are so grave,” Duavit said.

“Perhaps he was misadvised; that he did not see that in applying for political asylum in Timor Leste, he did not see that this is the accusation [of willful persecution] that he has brought to our state. Cong Arnie, this is not an attack on you but look at it as a lifeline. If you did not mean to besmirch our state, if you did not mean to harm the House, all of these can be cured by just coming home,” he added.

In addition, Duavit urged Teves to have trust and faith in his peers.

Speaker Martin Romualdez of Leyte backed Duavit’s sentiments.

“I would like to reiterate that as members of this House, we must be accountable to the people at all times and perform our legislative mandates with utmost competence, efficiency, effectiveness, integrity and fidelity to the people’s welfare—nothing less. Let this be a reminder to all of us,” he said in a plenary speech.

“We won’t let anybody tarnish the integrity of Congress. This is not personal. This is our job,” Romualdez added. — BM, GMA Integrated News