Teves camp seeks clarification amid ‘expedited’ House suspension process

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 23) — The camp of Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. has questioned what it called an expedited process of his colleagues following the move to suspend him from the House of Representatives for 60 days.

“Ang nais ko lang sabihin ay binilisan ‘yung proseso,” Ferdinand Topacio, Teves’ legal counsel, said in a chance interview with reporters on Thursday.

“Ang hindi ko maunawaan from my point of view as a lawyer is what accounted for the urgency? Bakit naging fixated sila na mag-appear siya personally?” he added.

[Translation: What I would like to say is that the process was expedited. I can’t understand, from my point of view as a lawyer, what accounted for the urgency? Why were they fixated on the request for him to appear in person?]

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges recommended the 60-day suspension of Teves, citing “disorderly behavior” amid his continued absence in Congress. Teves has yet to return to the country despite the expiration of his travel authority on March 9.

All House lawmakers voted in favor of the move during the plenary session.

Topacio said they aim to clarify the matter with the panel.

“Nagkakaroon po ng doubt sa aming isip kung bakit, anong reason. At isa ‘yun sa mga puntos na nais namin hilingin na ma-clarify ng committee,” he said.

[Translation: There were doubts on our minds why this happened, what’s the reason. That’s one of the points that we wish to clarify with the committee.]

Panel responds

The ethics committee meanwhile stood by its recommendation, saying due process was observed and there was enough basis for the decision.

Nueva Ecija Rep. Ria Vergara, the panel’s vice chairperson, explained that House Speaker Martin Romualdez himself called for Teves to return home.

“’Yung [The] urgency I believe is for the sake [of] Cong. Arnie Teves, more than anything. If he has no hand in this crime, then there’s no reason for him not to come home,” Vergara said in a separate interview with reporters.

The lawmaker has been implicated in the 2019 killings in his province, and tagged as the alleged mastermind in Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo's murder. He has repeatedly denied the claims against him.

House sends notice of suspension

House Secretary General Reginald Velasco said that the chamber has already sent Teves his official notice of suspension.

Velasco also confirmed that he has received the letter of Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, wife of the slain governor, calling for the expulsion of the congressman.

“Pinag-aaralan yan ng legal department kung paano namin iha-handle itong letter na ito. I think in the next few days, we will inform you kung ano ang magiging aksyon,” he said.

[Translation: Our legal department is studying how to handle this letter. I think in the next few days, we will inform you of our action.]

CNN Philippines correspondent Paige Javier contributed to this report.