Teves’ lawyer says no order for solon to come home: We can attend hearing online
MANILA, Philippines — The lawyer of Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo “Arni” Teves Jr. has maintained that there was no compulsory order for the lawmaker to return home and report for work, saying that the House of Representative leadership was merely giving advice.
In a letter released to reporters on Monday, lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said that House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez’s request for Teves to return home amid the expired travel authority could not be considered a direct order — as it sounded like friendly advice.
Topacio’s letter was addressed to the House Committee on ethics and privileges, which convened earlier in private to discuss Teves’ continuous absence even as the travel authority expired last March 9.
“By the tenor of the good Speaker’s statements on the matter, it is pellucid that he merely made a friendly advice to Rep. Teves to return to the country ‘face allegations’ relating to the murder of Gov. Roel Degamo, adding that ‘we all want to hear his side of the story.’ It was an expression of concern, which our client deeply appreciates, but is far from being a command or directive,” Topacio said.
“This stand finds support in the pronouncement of the House Secretary-General that ‘the House cannot compel the lawmaker (referring to Rep. Teves) to come home since his trip is not in an official capacity’,” he added.
According to Topacio, Teves regrets not being able to comply with the committee’s request for him to attend the hearing physically but also notes that lawmakers who attend online can be considered present — just like in the plenary session and committee hearings.
Topacio said Teves maintains that the reason for him not returning — security concerns after being implicated as the mastermind in the killing of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo — are among valid reasons why a lawmaker cannot be physically present.
READ: Teves tagged as alleged mastermind in Degamo slay
“At any rate, our client informs us that under the hybrid system adopted by the House, virtual meetings are allowed and considered as an actual presence for most intents and purposes of the House rules,” Topacio noted.
“In addition, Rep. Teves invites the attention of the Committee, and the House in general, to the latitudinarian attitude of the House to absences made by its members when the same is due to good and valid causes. We feel that grave and serious security concerns are one of those valid causes,” he added.
During the committee’s first hearing on ethics and privileges on the said issue last Wednesday, committee chair and COOP-NATCCO party-list Rep. Felimon Espares said Teves would be given five days to answer a letter requiring him to explain why he has not reported for work.
READ: House ethics panel to tackle only Teves’ absence, nothing more
The following day — after Teves’ camp sent a letter to the House asking for a two-month leave — Romualdez reiterated his request for Teves to come home and face accusations against him.
Romualdez said that the committee proceeded to take jurisdiction of Teves’ absence as he refused to heed the direct order from the Speaker.
READ: Romualdez tells Teves’ lawyer to ask client to return: It’s not good for him to flee PH
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