Speaker Martin G. Romualdez on Thursday renewed his appeal—and ultimatum—to Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. to return to the country and report to work in Congress immediately.
This was as Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, who was gunned down along with eight others at his home by heavily-armed men who claimed a certain “Cong Teves” was the mastermind of the brazen assassination, was laid to rest yesterday in his hometown of Siaton.
The leadership of the House of Representatives also said it will leave it up “to the sound discretion” of the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges to investigate Teves over his failure to return to the country despite the Speaker’s appeal and the expiration of his travel clearance last March 9.
House Majority Leader and Zamboanga City Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe said it will let the House ethics committee decide on the imposition of appropriate disciplinary action against Teves.
The Negros solon’s legal counsel, Ferdinand Topacio, requested a private meeting with the Speaker Wednesday night.
“In that meeting, I reiterated my stand that Cong. Arnie should return to the country and report for work at once,” Romualdez told reporters yesterday.
“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,” he said.
Topacio sought the meeting with Romualdez “to personally relay some concerns of his client,” the Speaker said.
Romualdez said he informed Topacio of the decision of the House Committee on Ethics to investigate Teves’ apparent refusal to abide by the Speaker’s order from the Speaker to return to the country.
“The Committee on Ethics has already acquired jurisdiction on Cong.Arnie’s case. I will act accordingly after the Committee wraps up its investigation and submits its recommendation to the House leadership,” Romualdez said.
“I also reiterated the assurance that the Speaker and the entire House leadership will exert all means necessary to pave the way for Cong. Arnie’s safe return to the country,” he added.
Teves has refused to return home, saying he fears for his life and that of his family.
Last week, suspects in the killing of Degamo tagged “Cong Teves” as the mastermind behind the assassination.
The suspects said the person who hired them financed and served as the mastermind behind the group that carried out the attack on Degamo.
Teves is also facing three murder charges for his alleged involvement in the killing of Negros Oriental Board Member Miguel Dungog and two others in 2019.
He has denied that he and his brother, Henry Pryde Teves, whom Degamo unseated, had something to do with the governor’s slay. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
The report of the House ethics committee will be brought to the plenary, Dalipe said. Members will vote on the decision then.
Relatives, friends, local officials, and supporters attended the funeral mass for Degamo at St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in Barangay Bonawon.
His remains were placed beside his deceased parents at the family’s compound in Siaton.
Degamo was talking to beneficiaries of the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) at his residence in Pamplona, Negros Oriental, on the morning of Saturday, March 4 when armed men barged in and fired shots.
The governor and five others were killed. The death toll rose to nine the day after the attack. Thirteen others were seriously injured, while four were treated as outpatients.
The Philippine National Police also confirmed the release of Teves’ secretary after the Department of Justice dismissed the complaint against her.
Hanna Mae Oray was among the individuals arrested by members of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) during a raid at the properties of Teves last March 10.
Oray and five others were charged with violating Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and infringement of RA 10591.
But the PNP said DOJ ordered Oray’s release for lack of probable cause.
The police said it would not stop pursuing those involved in the case in line with its campaign against loose firearms.