Delon Porcalla – The Philippine Star
March 17, 2023 | 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Martin Romualdez has denied the request of Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. to extend his stay in the United States for two more months, reminding him that fleeing will not do him any good as a lawmaker and citizen.
“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,” the leader of the 312-member House of Representatives said yesterday.
“If there is a case that he needs to face, then he should face it here – inside the country and not from the outside. I repeated it to him, he needs to go home and report for work immediately as he no longer has the authority to travel outside the country,” said Romualdez.
“We, here in Congress also want to hear his side of the story,” added the congressman from Leyte’s 1st District, citing persistent reports that Teves is allegedly involved in the March 4 murder of his brother Pryde Henry’s political rival, Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo.
Teves, in a video posted on social media platform Facebook, categorically denied that he masterminded Degamo’s murder, saying that while he is the brother of the governor’s rival, he has “no motive” to want him dead since no one in their family stands to gain anything out of it.
Teves’ Feb. 27 travel authority in the US lapsed last March 9, but he asked for a two-month extension until May 9.
The Speaker advised Teves’ lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, to relay and reiterate to his client that he “should return to the country and report for work at once.”
“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,” said Romualdez, assuring Teves of “security” as soon as he arrives at the airport.
The Speaker, at the same time, apprised Topacio of the ongoing inquiry being conducted by the House committee on ethics headed by COOP-NATCCO Rep. Felimon Espares with regard to his client’s case, after he “refused to heed” his “direct order” to return last March 9.
“The Committee on Ethics and Privileges 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.
House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe said, “ending submission of the Report by the Committee on Ethics to the Plenary, we leave it to the sound discretion of the committee to investigate and recommend imposition of the appropriate disciplinary action.”
PNP reassures Teves of safety
The Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership renewed yesterday its offer of security to Teves to keep him safe when he returns to the country.
Col. Jean Fajardo, spokesperson for the PNP, said they are coordinating with the House sergeant-at-arms for any information on the congressman’s plans.
“As soon as he arrives back from abroad, the PNP is ready to provide him security, including his immediate family,” Fajardo told a press briefing.
She also said that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is nearly done with its probe and will file criminal complaints “if not tomorrow (March 17), probably next week.”
Responding to allegations that police officers who raided Teves’ properties in Negros Oriental had committed abuses, Fajardo said the PNP is denying it.
She noted that barangay officials were present to witness how policemen implemented the search warrants.
Meanwhile, the PNP said it respects the decision of state prosecutors to release two of the six people arrested by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) team that raided Teves’ properties last weekend.
The PNP said it abides with the decision of prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ) in releasing Hannah Mae Oray and Jose Gimarangan despite the seizure of a cache of firearms, grenades and ammunition in the properties covered by the search warrants.
“The PNP fully respects the findings of the DOJ prosecutors and will abide by the legal orders as mandated in our laws,” it said in a statement.
“However, the PNP will not stop to pursue violators of our laws and will aggressively continue to pursue the campaign against loose firearms, especially those in the hands of private armed groups wherever they may be in the country,” the PNP added.
Fajardo said that based on the information they received, Oray was released for lack of probable cause.
At present, four suspects remain in police custody – Roland Pablia, Jojo Maturan, Joseph Kyle Maturan and Oray’s husband, Hercaleo.
Yesterday, Degamo was afforded full military honors as his body was laid to rest at their family mausoleum in Barangay Bonawon, Siaton, Negros Oriental.
Thousands of mourners and grieving supporters of the slain governor paid their last respects amid a collective call for justice.
“Justice for Roel Degamo” was the repeated call uttered by widowed Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo while her husband’s remains were being interred.
A giant TV monitor was installed in front of the Provincial Capitol in Dumaguete City for the benefit of those who could not make it to the funeral an hour’s drive south. – Emmanuel Tupas, Gilbert Bayoran