Gov’t to cancel Teves passport once raps filed
Suspended Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. may soon find himself unable to move from one country to another as the Department of Justice (DOJ) plans to have his passport cancelled after it files a case against him for the murder of his political rival, Gov. Roel Degamo, by Monday next week at the latest.
“So given that, we will only cancel it (passport) when there is a cause to cancel it, which is a court case for murder or terrorism or whatever cases will be filed,” Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla told reporters on Wednesday.
As a congressman, Teves holds two passports: regular and diplomatic. The National Bureau of Investigation can move to cancel both after he is charged in connection with Degamo’s death. Contacted for comment, one of Teves’ lawyers said that at the moment, there was no basis for DOJ’s move.
“There are only three instances when a Philippine passport may be canceled: when one is a fugitive from justice; when one has been convicted of a crime; and when the passport was fraudulently acquired or has been tampered with,” Teves’ lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said. Earlier, Timor-Leste denied Teves’ request for asylum after DOJ informed its government that the congressman was a person of interest in several murder charges and was also in the process of being officially tagged as a terrorist.
Case buildup ongoing
“Timor-Leste did not want to be involved in our local peace and order problems. Knowing fully well that, since they have people who are in the country observing our local processes, they know that there is a case that developed, a case that is ongoing buildup right now and that these cases will be filed very soon. And our target is Monday,” Remulla said. Teves, who has yet to return to the country since February after going on medical leave, has refused to come home, saying he fears for his safety. He has also denied any involvement in Degamo’s killing on March 4.
To add to his problems, he may again face disciplinary action from the House of Representatives should he fail to report for work after his 60-day suspension ends on May 22.
Speaker Martin Romualdez issued the warning after the embattled lawmaker tried to seek political asylum in Timor-Leste.
In a statement on Tuesday, Romualdez said that the lower chamber “views with great concern” the report that Teves applied for “special sanctuary status.”
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, after denying his request, Timor-Leste gave the congressman five days to leave the country.
Romualdez discouraged Teves from seeking refuge elsewhere and “abandon his sworn duty to serve as [a] member of the House of Representatives.”“Rather than evade investigation by Philippine law enforcement agencies, Congressman Arnie should return home immediately and face the accusation against him,” he said.
He warned that if Teves would “continue to defy the return to work order after the lapse of the 60-day period of his suspension, the House committee on ethics and privileges may be constrained to reconvene and consider another possible disciplinary action against him.”
“This is our recourse in order to preserve the dignity, integrity and reputation of the House of Representatives,” Romualdez said, as he reiterated his assurance that the lower chamber would ensure Teves’ safety should he return. Teves was suspended starting on March 22 upon the recommendation of the House ethics committee for “disorderly behavior” and violating Section 142(a) of the House rules on the Code of Conduct.
The penalty was imposed after he refused to come home despite the expiration of his House travel clearance and Romualdez’s repeated pleas for him to return.
In a video posted on his Facebook account following his suspension, Teves questioned his fellow lawmakers for singling him out and recommending his suspension.