House suspends Teves for 60 days over continued absence

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 22) — The House of Representatives has slapped embattled Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. with a 60-day suspension over his continued absence in Congress.

Voting 292-0-0 during the plenary session on Wednesday, lawmakers adopted the recommendation of the ethics and privileges committee — which noted Teves' "defiance" to return to the Philippines despite an expired travel authority.

"After a thorough deliberation and observance of due process, the committee hereby recommends the imposition of [the] penalty for disorderly behavior," panel chair COOP NATCCO Rep. Felimon Espares said in his speech.

Espares also highlighted how Teves' personal trip has hampered his duties as House member.

Explaining the move further in its report, the House panel said the congressman's actions have been affecting the "dignity, integrity, and reputation" of the chamber and therefore warrant disciplinary action.

"Rep. Teves failed to observe the norms of conduct and ethical standards expected of public officials," read the document. "This committee cannot countenance such an act by any member of the House."

Teves flew to the United States late last month for medical treatment. His colleagues, including House Speaker Martin Romualdez, urged him to come home after his travel authority lapsed on March 9.

The lawmaker has been implicated in the 2019 killings in his province, and tagged as the alleged mastermind in Gov. Roel Degamo's murder. He sought to extend his leave of absence, citing a "grave security threat" to his life.

RELATED: Marcos says gov't sees no threats vs. Teves but offers protection for him to return

The request was however turned down. The ethics committee then gave an ultimatum for Teves to come home and show up to work in-person by Tuesday afternoon or risk facing possible sanctions.

Article VI, Section 16 of the 1987 Constitution gives the House the power to penalize its members for disorderly behavior.

Degamo camp still wants expulsion

The camp of Degamo welcomed the development, but stressed that it will still push for the higher form of penalty: expulsion.

"We are grateful dahil may suspension siya but we are hoping na it will be expulsion talaga sana," Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, wife of the slain governor, told CNN Philippines.

"We will not stop. We will look at other angles na pwede naming i-file ulit para makuha talaga namin 'yong expulsion, kung mararapat na maibigay talaga," she added.

[Translation: We are grateful that there is suspension but we are hoping that it will be really expulsion. We will not stop. We will look at other angles that we can file so we can achieve expulsion, if warranted.]

Romualdez, for his part, vowed that the House "will never ever" allow any unbecoming conduct from any member.