Teves expulsion not based on terror tag, House panel chair says
MANILA, Philippines — While lawmakers who recommended Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr.’s expulsion maintained that the terrorist tag was not a factor, some of their colleagues questioned why it was even discussed in the first place.
During the deliberation of the House committee on ethics and privileges’ report, Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro asked whether the Anti-Terrorism Council’s (ATC) designation of Teves as a terrorist was a factor in the recommendation.
Committee chair and COOP-NATCCO Rep. Felimon Espares responded by saying that it was only discussed by the committee, but was not a factor in the recommendation to expel Teves from the House of Representatives’ roll.
“On Page 12 to 14 of the committee report, one of the findings being discussed is the designation of Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. as a terrorist by the Anti-Terrorism Council. We are aware Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, that this designation still has to go through a process of appeal and final decision […] will that be considered as a ground for expulsion?” Garin asked.
“Your Honors, it was just only included in the discussion but in our recommendation, it is very clear that we just act on our recommendation for the disorderly behavior and for violation of the code of conduct, and a mere designation is not the basis of our recommendation,” Espares said.
Castro reiterated Garin’s question, asking whether an ATC designation can play a role in expulsion of House members.
“And Mr. Speaker, distinguished (colleague), are you saying that for the basis of designation alone, will not be the basis for any of us to be expelled, just to reiterate […] And do you also confirm Mr. Speaker that in our Rule 20 on Page 76 of our Rules of the House, on Section 141, on code of conduct, there is no mention about designation of terrorist?” Castro said.
“Yes Mr. Speaker, the designation alone would not suffice as our basis for this recommendation […] we are just only talking on the disorderly behavior and for violation of code of conduct of our House of Representatives,” Espares replied.
Minority lawmaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman said that the discussions on ATC’s designation of Teves should have been stricken off the committee report.
“I decided not to vote in the expulsion of Congressman Arnolfo Teves because I do not agree with the baseline used by the Committee of Ethics in recommending his expulsion,” Hataman said in a statement, written in Filipino.
“We are setting a dangerous precedent in this Ethics case against Congressman Teves by using his designation as a terrorist as one of the bases for his expulsion. It is my firm belief that that basis should have been stricken off the committee report,” he added.
Teves was expelled from the House roll after 265 lawmakers voted in favor of adopting the committee’s report. Castro and the rest of the Makabayan bloc — Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas and Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel — abstained from voting.
Espares said that only the three issues played a role in their recommendation to expel Teves:
- Teves’ continuous pursuit of political asylum — deemed tantamount to abandoning his public office
- Teves’ continuous absence, as he has not reported to the House since he was authorized to go on a medical trip from February 28 to March 9
- Teves’ indecent behavior on social media, as he uploaded a video of him dancing while wearing only his undergarments
Teves was designated as a terrorist last August 1, along with his brother, former Negros Oriental governor Pryde Henry Teves and 11 others for their supposed involvement in the spate of violence in Negros Oriental.
Teves, however, said in a virtual press briefing that such allegations are the peak of the government’s stupidity, reasoning that no politician in his right mind would appeal for votes while terrorizing the voters themselves.
Teves flew to the United States for a medical procedure, through the power of a House-issued travel authority lasting from February 28 to March 9. However, Teves refrained from returning to the Philippines after authorities implicated him in the killing of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo and several others, which is now dubbed as the Pamplona massacre.
Teves maintained that he is not involved in the killing of Degamo, adding that he and his brother do not gain anything from the incident. Teves has not returned due to supposed concerns to his and his family’s security.