60-day suspension: House scolds Teves for ‘disorderly behavior’
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has suspended Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. for 60 days for his “disorderly behavior” in refusing to return home and perform his duties.
In Wednesday night’s plenary session, 292 congressmen voted to approve Committee Report No. 472, which contained the findings and recommendations of the House ethics panel’s probe on Teves.
There were no congressmen who voted against the findings or abstained from the nominal voting.
The plenary’s action ended a weeklong investigation on the embattled lawmaker, who was not around when the decision was handed down as he decided to stay abroad for fear of his life after being implicated as the mastermind in the slaying of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo last March 4.
House ethics committee chair Rep. Felimon Espares presented the findings and recommendations to the plenary, a copy of which was given to the Inquirer.
The committee members unanimously voted that Teves was liable for violating Section 142(a) of the House rules on the Code of Conduct for incumbent congressmen.
Teves’ continued stay outside the Philippines even with an expired travel clearance and his continued defiance of the orders of the lower chamber and the House ethics committee “constitute disorderly behavior that affects the dignity and reputation of the House, which warrant disciplinary action,” the report said.
The House rules provide that a congressman liable for disorderly behavior may be punished with a 60-day suspension from the service, or a maximum penalty of expulsion from the House.
It added that Teves “failed to observe the norms of conduct and ethical standards expected of public officials.”
Even after receiving all communications, memorandums and orders of the House, he “failed miserably to comply and continues to disregard the order to return to the country and explain his absence without proper authority.”
“This constitutes substantial evidence to find him liable for disorderly behavior that warrants an appropriate disciplinary action,” the report noted.
In its 13-page report, the ethics committee pointed out that there was no sickness or unavoidable circumstance that prevented Teves from attending the House’s sessions even through hybrid means such as video conferencing.
It added that with the expiration of his travel clearance on March 9, Speaker Martin Romualdez’s call for him to return to the country was “highly expected” and gave Teves “no option but to come back, unless his travel clearance is extended for justifiable reason.”
The committee explained that Teves’ request to extend the validity of his travel clearance was not given due course “because of his own doing, as he failed to specify the foreign places and the specific period of travel.”
As to his request for a two-month leave of absence, this was also denied as a result of the denial of his request to extend his authority to travel.
“Under the standard operating procedure, a request for travel clearance must be supported with approved application for leave of absence. The denial of his request for extension of travel clearance carries with it the denial of his application for leave of absence,” the report said.
As for Teves’ claims that there were “serious and imminent threats” to his life, the House ethics panel stressed that the lawmaker or his lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, “did not provide the committee any evidence whatsoever in support of his claim.”
In his remarks before the House adjourned its regular session on Wednesday night, Romualdez maintained that the lower chamber would not tolerate its members’ misconduct and wrongdoing.
Appeal for ‘fairness’
Teves, claiming there were “operations” to take him down, earlier appealed for “fairness” in the House’s actions on his absence.
In a 17-minute video posted on Facebook on Tuesday night, Teves hinted that the alleged plot against him might have found its way into Congress through the House ethics panel.
It was the first time since March 6 that the lawmaker surfaced on social media to deny any involvement in the Degamo murder, and to slam efforts to pin him for the crime.
“To my colleagues in Congress, you know me, you know how I work. You know who go to work there, you know who are often absent. You in the ethics committee, why question only me on my attendance? My request was clear, I asked to be allowed to go on leave because of the serious security threat I am facing,” the lawmaker said in the video captioned “Hindi ako nagtatago” (I am not in hiding).
“In spite of my request, I am still being forced to come home. The committee even said the House Speaker gave a direct order to me. You know there’s none. It’s too obvious that there’s an operation against me,” he said.
Teves dared the House to release the attendance record of lawmakers to prove that he was not frequently absent.
“I was absent for only a few days, then the ethics committee suddenly questions it. Let’s do this to be fair. Why don’t we release the records of attendance of the 17th, 18th, and 19th Congress?” he said.
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