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Saturday, April 1, 2023

Speaker to Teves: Return to work now

(UPDATE) SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin Romualdez reaffirmed his position on Thursday that Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. must immediately return to the country and report for work in the House of Representatives.

Teves had applied for a two-month leave of absence from his legislative duties, citing “very significant threats” to his life and that of his family.

The congressman is being implicated in the killing of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and eight others last March 4.

Romualdez said he had turned over Teves’ request to the House Committee on Ethics.

The speaker said he met with Teves’ lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, on Wednesday night.

“I relayed to Attorney Topacio the decision of the House Committee on Ethics to investigate Congressman Arnie’s refusal to heed a direct order from the speaker for him to come back home after the expiration of his travel authority last March 9,” Romualdez said.

He said the committee has acquired jurisdiction over Teves’ case. “I will act accordingly after the committee wraps up its investigation and submits its recommendation to the House leadership,” he added.

Romualdez emphasized his assurance that the House leadership will do everything to ensure Teves’ safe return to the country.

“I strongly urge Congressman 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,” he said.

The Office of the House Secretary-General said it has received Teves’ letter requesting for a leave and forwarded it to the ethics committee.

“It’s up to the panel to decide on this and any other requests Congressman Teves may make,” House Secretary-General Reginald Velasco said.

Teves requested for a leave on Wednesday.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has said Teves had left the US and was somewhere in Asia.

A suspect in the Degamo killing pointed to Teves as the mastermind of the attack at his house in Pamplona town.

In a related development, the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has charged Teves and his two sons after a stash of firearms and ammunition was seized during a raid in his house.

Charged before the Department of Justice (DoJ) on Wednesday were the congressman and his sons, Kurt Mathew and Axel, PNP spokesman Jean Fajardo said Thursday.

Fajardo said the high-caliber guns found in Teves’ house in Bayawan town were unlicensed.

The same charges were filed against the secretary of Teves and five other individuals.

The congressman is already facing multiple murder complaints in connection with a series of murders in Negros Oriental in 2019.

Also named as respondents were Richard Cuadra, Jasper Tanasan, Alex Mayagma, Rolando Pinili, and a certain Hannah Mae.

According to the complaint, the respondents were directly involved in the murders on March 25, near Silliman Medical Center, Dumaguete City; May 26, in Sitio Labugon, Barangay, Nago-alao, Basay, Negros Oriental; and June 23 in Barangay Malabugas.

One of the victims that were identified in the charge sheet was Negros Oriental Board member Miguel Dungog and two other victims of robbery.

A witness, allegedly a member of the assassination team, claimed that Teves shouldered the operating expenses for the killings.

Fajardo also said the PNP is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of the remaining suspects in the Degamo case.

The reward will be announced by Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos and PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr.

Fajardo said investigators have identified the suspects still at large based on the information provided by their four arrested cohorts.

The suspects in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Manila have said they are willing to cooperate in the investigation.

Degamo was laid to rest Thursday in the family compound.

Malacañang has declared a special non-working holiday in the province to allow residents to mourn the governor’s death.

Supporters of Degamo assembled at the provincial capitol to wait for the buses provided by the local government that took them to the town of Siaton for the burial.

A big screen was set up on the capitol grounds for those who were not able to travel on the buses.

Thousands joined the two-kilometer funeral procession from the governor’s family compound to the St. Vincent Ferrer Parish church.

Police officers carried the governor’s hearse into the church.

Dumaguete Bishop Julito Cortes, who led the Mass for Degamo, urged residents of Negros Oriental to pray “that the cycle of unsolved killings” in the province will end.

Cortes said the death of Degamo has roused the people of the province to fight the culture of impunity.

“This is something good for the province that has come out of the late governor’s death,” Cortes said in his homily.

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Author: Moises Cruz,Franco Jose C. Baroña

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