Solon still no-show until deadline, sanctions for decision at plenary
The House of Representatives committee on ethics and privileges committee is submitting to the plenary its recommended action against Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. following his failure to meet a 24-hour ultimatum to return to the country and submit himself to the panel last Monday.
The House in plenary session will then decide Wednesday through a vote whether to accept the panel’s recommended action on Teves.
Congress goes on a Lenten recess starting March 25.
This developed as four more suspects considered “major players” in the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, have surrendered to the Philippine military, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Tuesday.
Remulla stressed that while authorities are looking for at least three more suspects, almost all on the “attack team” is now in the custody of authorities.
Emerging from an executive session of the ethics committee, Rep. Felimon Espares of COOP NATCCO party-list, the panel’s chairperson, said the panel already voted on a “recommendation on sanctions” to be imposed against Teves.
Espares said the committee will announce its decision in Wednesday’s plenary session. He said Teves’ failure to return home gave the panel “no choice (but) to wrap the investigation without his valid explanation.”
This was despite lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, Teves’ legal counsel, asking the House to let his client attend the meeting via teleconferencing, as allowed in Congress’ hybrid meeting rules.
Speaker Martin G. Romualdez on Tuesday reiterated his appeal to Teves Jr. to return home.
At the same time, Romualdez commended Espares and the House ethics committee members for acting expeditiously on the case, in consonance with its mandate and in compliance with the Rules of the House to punish its members for disorderly behavior.
“We recognize and respect all the rights Cong Arnie (Teves) has as a House member. That’s why we gave him all the chances to come home and clarify all the issues he is facing,” he said.
“I have, time and again, asked Cong Arnie to come home after the expiration of his travel authority last March 9. The last time we spoke over the phone, I personally relayed my instruction for him to return to the country at once. I assured him that the Speaker and the House of Representatives will exert all possible means to secure his personal safety as soon as he lands back home,” Romualdez stressed.
The decision on Teves’ case “now lies at the hands of his fellow House Members, voting as an institution.”
“Rest assured that the House of Representatives will render its decision on this case observing due process and fully cognizant of Cong Arnie’s rights, but with the best interest of the nation in mind,” the Speaker said.
On the new suspects, Remulla said: “Well, there have been four extra surrenders in the Degamo case. Almost, we have almost [all] the people there as part of the thing that attacked Governor Degamo. We have almost all of them in custody.”
He said the four suspects, who are former military personnel, will be turned over to the Department of Justice on Wednesday morning.
“They’re on their way here. We hope that they will be here in Manila by tonight and will be turned over to us by tomorrow morning,” Remulla added.
He said the four have yet to give their initial statement.
The suspects caught earlier said a certain “Cong Teves” was the mastermind behind the assassination.
“None yet. They had debriefing but it’s for purposes of military intelligence but we’ll be getting it. They turned themselves in. They arranged for their own surrender,” the DOJ chief said.
Degamo and eight others were killed while several others were injured after an attack at the governor’s home on March 4.
On Monday, Special Task Force Degamo head and Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos announced that one suspect surrendered to authorities on Friday.