Lawmaker in hiding loses over P1 million in salaries
MANILA, Philippines — Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. forfeited more than P1 million in pay for the 120 days he was suspended by the House of Representatives for his refusal to come home and face the charges against for the murder of his political rival, former provincial Gov. Roel Degamo.
House Secretary General Reginald Velasco confirmed to the Inquirer on Tuesday that Teves did not receive any pay or benefits for the duration of his two 60-day suspensions between March and July.
Members of Congress are at Salary Grade 31. Under Republic Act No. 11466 or the Salary Standardization Law of 2019, their monthly pay ranges from P278,434 to as much as P318,806.
This means that Teves missed out on four months of pay totaling between P1.1 million and P1.2 million, although he resumed receiving his salary effective on July 31 after serving his second suspension.
The House suspended him from March 22 to May 22 and again on May 31 to July 30 over his “continued unauthorized absence and disorderly behavior.”
“Representative Teves has been considered absent since the expiration of his travel authority on March 9, 2023,” Velasco said in a message to the Inquirer.
When Degamo and nine others were killed during an attack on the governor’s residential compound in Pamplona town, Negros Oriental, on March 4, Teves was out of the country on medical leave.
He has since refused to return to the country, citing threats to his life. However, he has been posting videos on social media, arguing his case against accusations that he masterminded the killings.
Teves’ second suspension carried additional penalties, including the suspension of his rights and privileges as a congressman. He was also stripped of his membership in four House committees.
In his absence, Speaker Martin Romualdez has acted as the legislative caretaker for Negros Oriental’s third district, which Teves has represented since 2016.
On Tuesday, the House ethics and privileges committee headed by Rep. Raul Angelo Bongalon decided to conduct another motu proprio investigation amid Teves’ refusal to come home and physically report for work.
Bongalon said the panel has yet to discuss what penalties it may recommend.
“Probably [at] the proper time, the committee will discuss the appropriate sanction… Probably in one to two weeks, because we can still conduct committee hearings if there are new developments,” he told reporters.
Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. clarified that the investigation was meant to “exhaust all means to be able to have a real basis” for any action the House might take against Teves.
“There won’t be any railroading, and we don’t want to forget this because we’re also affected. We would like to be objective with our decision. We don’t want to hurt a House member without any reason and we would like to exhaust all means so that we will have a basis for our recommendation,” Abante said.
Abante said his colleagues were studying Teves’ designation as a terrorist. “This is the first time that this has happened to one of us. We’re also affected by [it]. He will be the cause why the whole House might come under scrutiny,” he said.
Bongalon said lawmakers were caught unawares by that development.
“We were surprised, too, in fact, that the ATC (Anti-Terrorism Council) released the resolution. It was a coincidence that our committee was scheduled to have a meeting today. There’s no collusion. Even if you ask the other members, they were surprised too,” he said.