Teves’ lawyer appeals to House lawmakers: Hear him out even virtually

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 11) — The legal counsel of Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. is asking members of the House of Representatives to give the embattled congressman a chance to air his side as the lower chamber eyes another disciplinary action against him.

“We would want to assume that this time since the penalty that they are considering is expulsion that they at least hear his side even virtually because that is the right of every person, the right to due process,” Atty. Ferdinand Topacio told CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday.

Teves, who was tagged as one of the orchestrators of the murder of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo, has refused to return to the country due to safety concerns. He flew to the United States in late February purportedly for medical reasons.

Due to his continuous absence, his fellow lawmakers on March 22 decided to suspend Teves for 60 days.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez on Wednesday warned that Teves may face another disciplinary action if the latter continued to refuse to return to work.

Rep. Felimon Espares, chairman of the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, said the panel may meet soon to discuss possible disciplinary actions against Teves.

Topacio said his client should be given the chance to speak as a courtesy.

“That much courtesy, they owe to a colleague and a co-equal in terms of representation of a certain segment of the population,” he noted.

Topacio said their camp has relayed their requests to Romualdez so that Teves’ safety would be ensured if he decided to return to the country to face the allegations.

The lawyer did not specifically mention what Teves’ requests were, but noted that “the threat to his safety will not end when he lands somewhere in the Philippines even if you surround him with a battalion of army rangers or special forces.”

Several options were also suggested regarding where Teves could be safely confined while under custody but these were rejected, Topacio added.