House ethics panel agrees on 'stiffer penalty' for Teves

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
House ethics panel agrees on 'stiffer penalty' for Teves
File photo of suspended Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo “Arnie Teves Jr..
The STAR / Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — The ethics panel of the House of Representatives unanimously agreed Monday to recommend a “stiffer penalty” for beleaguered Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. (Negros Oriental) but declined to disclose details of this new punishment for the lawmaker for his continued absence.

The House earlier meted a 60-day suspension on Teves for his failure to report back to work after the expiry of his travel authority that allowed him to fly to the US for a medical procedure. Teves still refused to go back to the country and resume his duties at the House after his suspension.

House rules provide that a lawmaker may be censured or reprimanded with the concurrence of the majority of all its members, while a suspension or expulsion can be meted with the concurrence of two-thirds of the chamber.

But Rep. Raul Angelo Bongalon (Ako Bicol party-list), vice-chairperson of the ethics committee, told a news briefing at the House that apart from expulsion, the panel can recommend the imposition of “any penalty that [it] may determine.”

“But I’m not saying that this was the decision or recommendation of the committee,” Bongalon said partly in Filipino. “We are not at liberty to divulge because we were not given the consent of the majority of the members of the Committee on Ethics.”

Rep. Felimon Espares (COOP NATCCO), Ethics panel chairperson, said they cannot impose a suspension longer than 60 days as this is the limit set by the Constitution.

The committee’s decision will be forwarded to the rules panel, which will calendar this for the plenary’s consideration either by Tuesday or Wednesday, House secretary general Reginald Velasco said.

Teves is facing criminal complaints over the massacre that killed 10 people in Pamplona, Negros Oriental including the province’s governor, Roel Degamo. The lawmaker has vehemently denied he is the mastermind of the crime.

So far, five alleged gunmen have recanted their testimonies where they pointed to Teves as the brains behind the carnage.

Complaints accusing Teves of multiple murder over 2019 killings, and of illegal possession of firearms and of explosives meanwhile are under preliminary investigation at the Department of Justice. The process to designate him as a terrorist has also started.

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