House suspends Teves for another 60 days

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 31) — The House of Representatives on Wednesday suspended Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. for another 60 days and forfeited all his committee memberships following his continued refusal to physically return to work.

A total of 285 lawmakers voted in favor of the House ethics committee's unanimous recommendation against Teves, who has been tagged as one of the masterminds in the March 4 murder of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo.

Teves has also been implicated in a number of killings in the province in 2019.

The panel cited Teves' continued unauthorized absences, failure to perform his duties as a House member, and violations of the lower chamber's Code of Conduct. It also took note of his unsuccessful bid to seek political asylum in Timor-Leste.

"His actions and all its consequences have compromised the integrity of the House of Representatives and constitute disorderly behavior warranting disciplinary action,” the committee said in its report.

Teves' application for political asylum was denied by Timor-Leste's government. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has said the lawmaker's asylum bid was baseless.

The latest move means all of Teves' rights and privileges as a congressional representative are likewise suspended for 60 days.

The House first slapped Teves with a 60-day suspension last March 22, noting his "defiance" to return to the Philippines despite an expired travel authority. That first period of suspension ended last week.

Speaker Martin Romualdez previously warned that the House may impose another disciplinary action against Teves if his unprecedented absence from work continues.

But the congressman insisted there are serious threats to his life and that he will not go home until he sees a "semblance of fairness" in the investigation.

"I don't have to be there for my voice and my side to be heard," he said, insisting the House ethics panel should allow him to virtually join the hearing.

Teves, who has repeatedly denied the accusations against him, left the country on Feb. 28 for medical treatment in the United States. His current whereabouts are unknown, but the Department Justice believes he's still in Timor-Leste.

Earlier in the day, his camp said they may raise their concerns to the Supreme Court should the House impose stiffer penalties against him.