House panel issues 24-hour ultimatum for Teves to physically report to work
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives Committee on ethics and privileges has issued a 24-hour ultimatum for Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. to report to work, as his travel authority had long expired.
After the House panel’s hearing on Monday afternoon, committee chair and COOP-NATCCO party-list Rep. Felimon Espares said this is an extension of the previous five-day deadline they gave to Teves last March 15.
If Teves does not show up again, the committee would be forced to proceed with the deliberation of possible sanctions against the lawmaker.
“As per approved by the committee, we will just inform you that we will extend our time to let our colleague respond within 24 hours na umuwi dito (to come home here). But kung hindi sya makapag-appear personally in our committee, so the committee would really have its decision, the appropriate sanctions,” Espares said.
“So probably by tomorrow, 4:00 or 5:00 pm, we will have our committee meetings to deal with — if our colleague Congressman Arnie Teves Jr. — will not be physically appearing in our committee. So hanggang d’yan lang muna,” he added.
The lawmaker — accused of masterminding the killing of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo —did not appear on Monday’s hearing through teleconferencing.
“Hindi allowed yung virtual (We do not allow virtual appearance). We need his physical appearance, meaning it’s him to really to report here at the House. (If he does not attend) as I have mentioned, the committee will rule on its appropriate sanctions,” Espares said.
“(It’s an) ultimatum in a sense na nabigyan siya ng time to really go back here in the Philippines, dahil kung hindi, ‘yon na, mag-provide kami ng aming decision what is the appropriate sanction,” he added.
(It’s an ultimatum in the sense that we have given him the time to really go back here in the Philippines because if not, then we would provide our decision on what is the appropriate sanction.)
However, Espares refrained from revealing any possible sanctions as the committee did not yet discuss this.
Last Wednesday, Espares said that they would send a letter to Teves, asking him to return to work as the travel authority given to him by the House expired last March 9.
However, Teves cited security concerns about why he is not returning from the medical trip to the United States, opting to ask the House leadership instead for a two-month leave.
Earlier, Teves’ counsel released a letter to the House committee stating that Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez’s advice for the lawmaker to return home cannot be considered a direct order.
In the letter from lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, he said that Teves regrets not being able to comply with the committee’s request for him to attend the hearing physically but also notes that lawmakers who attend online can be considered present — just like in the plenary session and committee hearings.
Topacio said Teves maintains that the reason for him not returning — the safety of himself and his family — is a valid reason the lawmaker cannot be physically present.