MANILA (UPDATED) — Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. may challenge in court the fresh suspension that the House of Representatives imposed against him, his lawyer said on Thursday.
The House on Wednesday voted to suspend Teves for another 60 days and stripped him off all his committee memberships in the chamber over his unauthorized absences.
"We are not foreclosing...judicial recourses with respect to the actions of the House committee on ethics," including the first 60-day suspension, said Teves' legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio.
While imposing suspensions and penalties against lawmakers is within the powers of the chamber, Topacio said that his client's rights were violated, "more particularly, the right to due process and equal protection."
"We are studying our options," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
Teves has been out of the country since he was implicated in the assassination of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and 9 others in the governor’s house in Pamplona, Negros Oriental on March 4. But Teves maintained that he and his clan had nothing to do with the crime.
Teves refuses to return to the Philippines due to supposed threats to his life.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. previously assured Teves' safety once he chooses to personally face the accusations against him.
Following the extension of Teves' suspension, House Speaker Martin Romualdez reminded lawmakers to "act at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House and...adhere to the spirit and the letter of the rules of the House and the rules of the committees."
"I would like to reiterate that as members of this House, we must be accountable to the people at all times and perform our legislative mandates with utmost competence, efficiency, effectiveness, integrity, and fidelity to the people’s welfare," he said.
TOPACIO VS DUAVIT
On Wednesday, Rizal 1st District Rep. Michael John Duavit explained that his vote to impose stiffer sanctions on Teves was a "lifeline" extended to his colleague instead of a punishment.
But Teves' lawyer said Duavit could not criticize the suspended lawmaker because he was not "in full possession of all" the facts.
"If Mr. Duavit wants to know what another definition of hell is, it is listening to the pontification of other people who think they know better than you," said Topacio.
Duavit also insinuated that Teves' asylum bid in Timor-Leste would mean that the Philippines does not have the capability, or even unwilling, to offer protection for people accused of crimes.
Topacio replied, "Sorry to disappoint him, however, but he is not the only one who is aware of the implications of an application for political asylum. Cong. Teves happens to be a very intelligent man, and he knows exactly what he is doing and the ramifications of whatever actions he takes."
— With reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News