Teves insists 'not hiding' after skipping hearing

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 21) — Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. maintained he is not in hiding after failing to show up for work at the House of Representatives even after a 24-hour ultimatum from his colleagues.

"Sabi nila gusto nila ako marinig. Nakiusap ako para pakingan nila ako via Zoom para they could hear my side. Hindi nila ako pinayagan, kailangan raw talaga face-to-face," Teves said in a video posted on social media Tuesday evening.

"Hindi ko maintindihan bakit pinipilit nila ako pumunta face-to-face. Nakiusap na ako na hindi muna ako magpapakita doon na physical dahil sa seryosong pagbabanta, grabeng pagbabanta sa aking buhay," he added.

[Translation: They said they wanted to hear me. I asked to be heard via Zoom so they could hear my side. They didn't allow it and insisted I attend face-to-face. I don't understand why they insist on this. I asked not to show up physically because of the serious and grave threat to my life.]

Echoing his lawyer Ferdinand Topacio's explanation, Teves said he knew as early as Jan. 11 that he would be blamed for a crime. 

After a suspect in the assassination of Gov. Roel Degamo on March 4 tagged Teves as the alleged mastermind, authorities raided the lawmaker's properties and seized several firearms.

"Agad-agad binintang nila sakin. Diba dapat sa imbestigasyon, una ang ebidensya bago ang suspek or ang mastermind. Ano ang nangyari dito sa Negros Oriental? Naglagay na sila kaagad ng suspek sabay pinahabol yung ebidensa na tumama doon sa gusto nilang maging mastermind. Diba mali?" Teves said.

[Translation: They immediately blamed me. In an investigation, evidence comes before the suspect or mastermind is pointed out. What happened here in Negros Oriental? They pinpointed a suspect and evidence came after, which led to the person they want to be the mastermind. Isn't that wrong?]

Teves said he would only return to the Philippines if he is assured of fair play in the case. 

Teves questions House inquiry into his absence

In the video statement, Teves also questioned why his absence was flagged immediately after his travel authority expired on March 9. He went abroad late last month for medical treatment.

Ilang araw lang ba ako nag-absent? Biglang ikukuwestiyon sa ethics committee. Ganito na lang para patas. Bakit hindi natin ilabas ang record ng attendance ng buong 17th, 18th, at 19th Congress para makita niyo?” he said.

[I was absent only for a few days. Suddenly it’s being questioned before the ethics committee. Do this to be fair. Why don’t we release the attendance record of the entire 17th, 18th, 19th Congress?]

House Committee on Ethics and Privileges Chairman Rep. Felimon Espares said the panel has unanimously approved a recommendation for "appropriate action" on Teves' continued absence from work, which the plenary will consider on Wednesday. 

Teves asks Romualdez: Why are you forcing me to come home when my life is in danger?

Teves also said he could not understand why House Speaker Martin Romualdez is “forcing” him to return to the country when Romualdez cannot guarantee his safety.

Boss Martin, hindi ko maintindihan bakit pinipilit niyo akong umuwi. Sa totoo lang gusto ko na umuwi. Kung hindi lang sa pagka-delikado ng aking buhay, umuwi na ako,” he said.

[Boss Martin, I don't understand why you're forcing me to come home. The truth is I want to come back home. If my life had not been in danger, I would have come home.]

Ilang army, ilang pulis ang naka-assign kay Degamo. Saan na siya ngayon? Nakalibing… Hindi nga siya na-secure ng sandamakmak na army. Sabay sasabihan niyo ako, kaya niyo akong i-secure,” he added.

[A lot of soldiers, policemen were assigned to Degamo. Where is he now? Buried… Plenty of troops were not able to secure him. And then you’re telling me now you can secure me.]

Teves also asked Romualdez to stop forcing him to come home.

Last week, Teves requested for a two-month leave from the House, citing a "very grave security threat" to his life and family. This was rejected by Romualdez.