MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — Suspended Negros Oriental Third District Rep. Arnolfo "Arnie" Teves Jr. on Wednesday denied claims of his impending return to the Philippines, calling it "fake news."
"Fake News ang balitang uuwi ako. Sana tinanong muna nila ako bago sila nagbitaw ng salita," Teves said a day after Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the lawmaker might return home on May 17.
(The information that I will go home is fake news. They should have asked me first.)
Teves' legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio also said his client only had one word as a reaction to Remulla's claims: "Heh?"
Topacio added that the embattled lawmaker intends to come home, but does not know when.
"Ina-assure ko po kayo na kung siya man ay babalik sa Pilipinas... ay hindi po namin itatago iyan. At bibigyan po namin kayo ng impormasyon na reliable, hindi iyong Marites," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(I assure you that if ever my client returns to the Philippines, we will not hide that. And we will give you reliable information, not gossip.)
Teves' lawyer earlier said that the lawmaker might stay longer in Timor-Leste despite the denial of his political asylum bid. The lawyer said Teves' appeal could supersede a five-day notice for him to leave the country.
The House of Representatives, meanwhile, has not received any confirmation on Teves' possible arrival to the Philippines.
"We cannot really speculate kasi wala pa tayong confirmation that he is really returning to day or any day for that matter," the lower house's secretary general Reginald Velasco told reporters.
Velasco noted that Teves' younger brother, former Negros Oriental governor Pryde Henry Teves, had told the House that he had no word on his brother's arrival.
Velasco maintained that the House of Representatives was ready to provide Rep. Teves protection once he returns to work.
Last March, the House suspended Teves for 60 days over his refusal to return to work following the expiration of his travel authority to the United States.
Teves has been tagged as the alleged main mastermind behind the March 4 armed attack that killed his rival, Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and 9 others. Teves said he and his clan had nothing to do with the killing.
More than 2 months since the slay, the National Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday finally filed the murder charges against Teves before the Department of Justice.
The House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, for its part, said the possibility of expelling Teves from the House of Representatives remained an option.
The panel is set to meet next week to discuss Teves' rejected asylum request in Timor-Leste, a day after his 60-day suspension lapses.
"Pag-usapan namin iyan during our next meeting. We are going to appreciate that kung tantamount naman iyon for that action of our recommendation," said COOP-NATCCO party-list Rep. Felimon Espares, the panel's chairperson.
But Espares could not say yet if Teves would be invited to the hearing.
"The political asylum [request], that's something that we will look into," committee vice chair and Nueva Ecija Rep. Rosanna Ria Vergara said.
PNP ON THE LOOKOUT FOR POSSIBLE TEVES ARRIVAL
The Philippine National Police (PNP), meanwhile, said it was ready to provide security to the embattled lawmaker if ever he does return to the country.
PNP public information officer P/BGen. Redrico Maranan said its Aviation Security Group (AVSEGROUP) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) have been alerted and tasked to monitor flights for Teves' possible arrival.
Maranan also said police presence once Teves lands in the country would only be for security purposes.
Asked where Teves would be brought if ever he arrives in the Philippines, Maranan declined to disclose details citing security and confidentiality reasons.
— With report from Raya Capulong, ABS-CBN News