Teves camp to seek Supreme Court's help against 'stiffer' penalty recommendation

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 31) — The camp of embattled Negros Oriental Rep. Arnie Teves may raise their concerns to the Supreme Court should the House of Representatives impose its recommended "stiffer" penalties against the lawmaker.

According to Teves' lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, filing a petition at the Supreme Court is an option that can be taken to question an action done by a government branch.

"Walang [There is no] appeal within Congress. The exercise of its prerogative is within Congress," Topacio explained.

"Although one of our options is to invoke the expanded judicial review or judicial power of Supreme Court in determining whether or not any branch of government has committed grave abuse of discretion. In-expand po kasi ng '87 Constitution yung judicial review power. Nabawasan yung province of acts which constitute non-justiciable issues," he added

[Translation: The 1987 Constitution expanded the judicial review power and reduced the province of acts which constitute non-justiciable issues.]

Topacio made the statement at a forum on Wednesday even as he said they are still clueless on what the "stiffer disciplinary action" House officials referred to earlier this week.

The House Committee on Ethics and Privileges on Monday said it was recommending "stiffer disciplinary action" against Teves. However, committee chairman Rep. Felimon Espares did not disclose details of the recommendation.

Ethics panel Vice Chairman Rep. Jil Bongalon said expulsion is a penalty stiffer than suspension, but clarified he was not saying that was the recommendation made by the committee.

Teves was penalized for his continued absence from Congress with a 60-day suspension — and this ended on May 22.

Suspects have right to legal representation

At the same briefing on Wednesday, Topacio said there was nothing wrong with the move of suspects in the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo to seek legal representation.

"Nakalagay sa Constitution, every person under investigation for a commission of a crime has a right to counsel of his own choice. Bakit mamasamain mo yung isang tao na nakakulong ay ginamit yung kanyang karapatan sa ilalim ng Saligang Batas?" Topacio said.

[Translation: It is in the Constitution that every person under investigation for a commission of a crime has a right to counsel of his own choice. Why would you take it against a person who uses his rights under the Constitution?]

Earlier this month, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla said some suspects "lawyered up" and are now refusing to work with the Department of Justice. Five suspects have so far retracted their statements.

DOJ spokesperson Mico Clavano said it was possible the Teves camp had a hand in the recantations, and insisted cases against the suspects were solid.

Topacio also dispelled talk saying he had links to lawyer Danny Villanueva, who represents several witnesses tagged in the Degamo slay.

CNN Philippines' Pia Garcia contributed to this story.