Speaker Romualdez urges besieged Teves: Come home
Speaker Martin Romualdez has advised Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. to return home to face allegations that he was behind the March 4 murder of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo.
But Teves has sought an extension of his stay abroad to April 9, according to House Secretary General Reginald Velasco.
Romualdez said the congressman’s authority to travel to the United States was only valid from February 28 to March 9.
“Clearly, the travel authority of Teves has expired effective today,” the House leader said in a statement on Friday. “His travel outside the country beyond the period mentioned is no longer authorized by the House of Representatives.”
Teves, in his video post on Facebook last Monday, said he was in the United States to undergo stem cell therapy.
He also denied any involvement in the murder of his political nemesis.
Velasco said the House cannot compel the lawmaker to come home since his trip is not in an official capacity.
“If it’s a personal trip, … our authority is very limited. Our function is only monitoring or ministerial,” he said.
“But if it’s an official trip using government funds, a diplomatic passport, then he has to come home right away after that meeting, conference or engagement,” the House official added.
Nevertheless, Romualdez said, “It would be best if [Teves] will come home to face allegations that he is involved in the death of Degamo. We all want to hear his side of the story.”
“The accused who were arrested already admitted their participation in the crime. The government will not stop in identifying and holding accountable those who are behind this brutal crime,” the Speaker said.
Velasco said the House could not act on Teves’ request for an extension of his stay abroad, since it did not have his signature and did not specify where else he would travel and on what dates.
The secretary general also cited Teves’ lawyer Ferdinand Topacio as saying at a press interview that Teves is on medical leave.
“But up to this time we have not received any formal communication that he is on medical leave,” Velasco said.
He explained that under House rules, the committee on ethics can recommend “disciplinary or punitive penalties” on a congressman who does not return home past his allowed travel period.
Still, Velasco said his office’s legal team will study Teves’ case by Monday.
“Flight is an indication of guilt and if he had nothing to do with the crime, he would not have wanted this to happen,” said the senator, who immediately turned himself in following his indictment in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam of 2014.
—WITH A REPORT FROM MARLON RAMOS