Lawyer says Teves didn’t show disorderly behavior, still submits to House’s authority
MANILA, Philippines — The legal counsel of suspended Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. has maintained that his client did not show disorderly conduct, noting that the lawmaker still submits to the authority of the House of Representatives.
In a letter dated March 24, copies of which were released on Monday, lawyer Ferdinand Topacio wrote a letter to the House Committee on ethics and privileges and its chairperson, COOP-NATCCO Rep. Felimon Espares, saying that they are again pleading to the committee to reconsider matters that “may have been overlooked.”
Topacio’s letter comes as the House last Wednesday, on its last session day before adjourning for the Holy Week break, voted in favor of the committee report recommending a 60-day suspension for Teves.
“We observe, however, that with the lengthy discussion of Rep. Teves’ alleged acts in the Report, there is nothing therein that gives a hint as to how such acts affected the dignity, integrity, and reputation of the House of Representatives and why the matter is sensitive and urgent,” Topacio said.
“It should be considered that, while Rep. Teves has not returned to the country due to his belief that his life would be in peril if he does so, he did not disregard, but instead continued to submit to, the authority of Congress, first, by invoking its power to allow him an extension and a leave of absence,” he added.
Topacio also noted that while Teves cannot provide evidence as to why a threat against him exists, not all threats are tangible and could be presented to the committee as evidence.
“The report implies that Rep. Teves, for his inability to appear, has to provide the committee with evidence of the serious and imminent threats to his life that he perceives,” Topacio said. “However, a belief that one’s life is threatened does not always come with demonstrable proof.”
“It could be by inference from circumstances that are not susceptible to tangible proof, as his in this case. Yet, everyone has a right to be cautious about the threats he perceives against his very life,” he added.
Teves has not returned to the Philippines after going to the United States for a medical trip due to threats to his and his family’s security. The concerns came after Teves was implicated by a Special Investigation Task Group as the alleged mastermind behind the killing of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo.
Teves denied involvement in the crime, saying he and his brother, former governor Pryde Henry Teves, would not gain anything from it. In past videos uploaded on his Facebook page, Teves said he fears that threats to his life may actualize if he returns, given that his previous warning of raids on his properties came true.
Due to Teves’ refusal to return, even with Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez asking the lawmaker to come back, the committee moved forward without hearing Teves’ side.
Previously, Teves’ camp said they could attend through videoconferencing, but the committee did not allow it.