Where is Teves? Senate panel rejects lawmaker’s virtual presence in Degamo slay probe
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs has rejected the plea of suspended Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. to only be present virtually in its probe into the brazen assassination of his political rival, Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, and other cases of political violence in the country.
Teves – tagged as the key orchestrator in the Pamplona massacre on March 4, which killed Degamo and eight others in the local official’s residence – confirmed to attend the panel’s hearing on Monday but only via video conference.
But Sen. Francis Tolentino cited a Commission on Appointments rule, enjoins an appointee claiming to be outside the jurisdiction of the Philippines to be present inside the Philippine embassy or consulate premises “so the commission will have jurisdiction, as well as enable the commission to take their oath.”
He believes this should have a “persuasive effect in so far as the actions of the committee.”
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who filed the resolution calling for the inquiry, urged Teves to come home and face the cases haunting him.
She also backed the request of Degamo’s widow – Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo – for the Senate to reconsider only attending the hearing virtually, saying victims of political violence in Negros Oriental were “disappointed” and “dismayed” by the decision.
With this in mind, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, who presided over the hearing, said there is “unanimous agreement” not to allow the virtual presence of Teves.
“Legal issues will arise as to the taking of oath as a basic requirement in taking testimonies of any resource person or witness. The whereabouts of Cong. Teves is not known or definite. Thus, jurisdiction as to his oath may be questioned legally,” he explained.
The committee, according to Dela Rosa, should have jurisdiction over Teves’ person so they can implement any decision in relation to the beleaguered lawmaker.
“The members of this committee unanimously agreed not to allow the virtual presence of Cong. Teves, but the doors are not completely shut down to Cong. Teves. If he wants to come here physically then, by all means, we will entertain. Lahat ng gusto niyang sabihin, pakikinggan namin (Everything he says, we will listen to),” the senator said.
Dela Rosa, however, bared his phone call with Teves on Sunday where the latter said that him being “under threat” is deterring him from returning to the country.
“Sabi ko, ‘Ako mismo mag-bodyguard sa iyo dito sa Senado. But sabi niya, ‘Diyan sa Senado, safe ako pero kapag labas ko, baka mamamatay ako. With that, I respect his decision,” he recalled.
(I said, ‘I myself will be your bodyguard in the Senate. But he said, ‘In the Senate, I’d be safe but when I leave its premises, I might die. With that, I respect his decision.)
Even Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. vowed to protect Teves against threats to his security should he return to the country.
Aside from being the alleged mastermind in the Pamplona massacre, Teves was also named a respondent in a complaint filed by the police in connection with a series of murders in his province in 2019.
Teves was granted authority to travel to the United States for medical treatment, but this lapsed on March 9. However, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Teves has since flown to Cambodia where he continues to stay.
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