Teves asked to explain continued absence, House ethics chair says

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 16 2023 07:58 PM | Updated as of Mar 16 2023 09:42 PM

(UPDATED) A lawmaker confirmed that the office of Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. has received their letter asking Teves to explain his continued absence from the House of Representatives.

"Our committee secretary confirmed today that the office of Cong. Teves received our letter," Rep. Felimon Espares, House Committee on Ethics and Privileges chairperson, told ABS-CBN News.

Espares left the matter of Teves' leave extension application to House Speaker Martin Romualdez.

"On the leave of absence, just learned [of it last night. So we await the decision of the Honorable Speaker on Cong. Teves' request," he said.

Espares explained that his committee will consider the request in their next meeting should the Speaker not grant Teves' request.

Meanwhile, Romualdez has confirmed that he met with Teves' legal counsel and reiterated his stand that Teves should return to the country.

Additionally, Romualdez also reiterated his guarantee on the lawmaker's safety upon his return.

"The entire House leadership will exert all means necessary to pave the way for Cong. Arnie’s safe return to the country. I strongly urge Cong. Arnie to reconsider his decision not to return. It does not sit well for a House member to flee the country rather than avail himself of all the legal remedies available to him," said Romualdez.

"However, we would also like to see his substantive reply, as directed by the committee," Espares said.

House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro, a member of the committee, said Thursday she does not see any basis for Teves' bid for a 2-month extension of his leave of absence from Congress.

"Para sa akin kasi 'di ko nakita 'yung reason niya bakit siya humihingi ng 2 months, as a government employee... kapag nanghihingi ka ng ganoong katagal na leave, kailangan mayroon namang justification 'yung reasonable na dahilan bakit siya nag-leave kasi eh kailangan kasi pumasok kami responsibilidad namin sa amin constituents na irepresenta sila dito sa House of Representatives," Castro told media.

In his letter, Teves cited security concerns for his leave.

"Parang mahirap patunayan 'yun so its up for him to justify his leave," Castro said.

House Secretary General Reginald Velasco told ABS-CBN that Teves' request has been referred to the committee that acquired jurisdiction over his case.

Castro recalled that the panel already voted to acquire jurisdiction and to ask their colleague to explain.

Castro also called for due process in their colleague's case.

"Bigyan din natin siya ng due process dahil member naman siya ng committee, kung mayroon siyang haharapin na kaso ay kailangan niya harapin. Sa ngayon, parang ang balita ko wala pa namang kinakaso sa kaniya regarding doon sa Degamo case kaya siguro ang ethics committee naman ay nag-exercise siya ng compassion and patience sa aming colleague," Castro said.

Castro urged the Negros Oriental lawmaker to come home.