MANILA — The Senate on Monday prohibited Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. from attending virtually its investigation on the killing of the province's Governor Roel Degamo.
"There is a unanimous agreement [among senators] not to allow the virtual presence of Congressman Teves," said Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, chairman of the Senate public order committee.
Senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Tolentino noted that Teves should be sworn in at the Philippine embassy or consulate in the country where he is staying.
"If ever the committee and the chair would allow him to testify virtually, at the very, very least, kailangan sa isang consulate, isang embahada ng ating republika where an embassy official should administer the oath," Hontiveros said.
However, Teves' whereabouts are "not known or definite" and his oath as a witness might be questioned later, noted Dela Rosa.
Dela Rosa said Teves called him Sunday and cited again an alleged threat to his life as his reason for not attending physically.
"I respect his decision," the senator said, adding the suspended lawmaker did not disclose where he was.
Dela Rosa said the committee cannot cite Teves in contempt or issue a subpoena, even when necessary, if it lacked "jurisdiction over his person."
"The doors are not completely shut down to Congressman Teves. If he wants to come here physically, then by all means, we will entertain [him]," Dela Rosa said.
The Department of Justice previously said that Teves was considered one of the masterminds in the assassination of Degamo and 8 others. The lawmaker said he and his clan had nothing to do with the crime.
Teves has yet to return to the country, more than a month since his travel clearance expired.
He was slapped with a 60-day suspension at the House of Representatives over his continued absence in Congress after being implicated in Degamo's murder.
His brother, former Negros Oriental Governor Pryde Henry Teves, attended Monday's Senate hearing in person.
Pryde Henry served as governor of Negros Oriental until Degamo unseated him last October following a recount of the May 2022 gubernatorial race. He said that since his voluntary exit from the governorship, he had returned to private life and "started enjoying it" until the Degamo murder.
Documents and other items allegedly belonging to the suspected gunmen in Degamo's killing were recently found in a sugar mill compound reportedly owned by Pryde Henry.
Dozens of firearms, explosives, and ammunition were also recovered from the property.
Pryde Henry surrendered 18 of his guns to the authorities after the Philippine National Police (PNP) revoked their licenses.
He also filed a waiver allowing the Department of Justice to look into his bank accounts, phone records, and emails in an effort to clear his name.