IN an unprecedented move, the House of Representatives expelled Rep. Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr., for disorderly behavior and for violating the Code of Conduct of the lower chamber.
Voting 265 affirmative, 0 negative, and 3 absentions, lawmakers voted to adopt the unanimous recommendation of the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges to impose the maximum penalty of expulsion on Teves.
In their report to the plenary, the Committee on Ethics and Privileges laid out clear and undeniable evidence that Teves violated his Oath of Office and displayed disorderly behavior.
The most glaring of these violations is his continuous attempt to seek political asylum in Timor-Leste and his prolonged, unjustified absence, which is tantamount to the abandonment of his office, said the ethics panel.
This, the committee noted, has directly affected the constituents of the 3rd District of Negros Oriental, depriving them of the representation they rightfully deserve from someone they elected into office.
“The prolonged unauthorized absence of Rep. A. Teves Jr. deprives the 3rd District of Negros Oriental of proper representation and undermines the efficiency of the legislative process. Instead of actively participating in deliberations on important legislative measures pending in the House, the representative refuses to return to the country and perform his duties as House Member. All these actuations of a legislative district representative weaken the institution’s effectiveness in serving the public and tarnishes the integrity and reputation of the House,” the committee explained.
The panel said Teves’ continuous absence in the House of Representatives, taken together with his continuous pursuit of his application for political asylum in Timor-Leste, effectively shows intent to abandon his public office, undermining public service.
In its Committee Report No. 660, the committee confirmed that Teves applied for political asylum in Timor-Leste, which was denied because “no facts are known to confirm the existence of any kind of persecution or serious threat to his citizen’s rights, freedom, and guarantees.”
In light of two repeated denials of asylum, Teves’ actions reportedly show a clear intention of relinquishing his duties as a representative. Such behavior, when combined with his persistent absence, demonstrates a definitive intent to abandon his public office.
“Abandonment of an office is the voluntary relinquishment of an office by the holder with the intention of terminating his possession and control thereof. In order to constitute abandonment of office, it must be total and under such circumstance as clearly to indicate an absolute relinquishment. There must be a complete abandonment of duties of such continuance that the law will infer a relinquishment. Abandonment of duties is a voluntary act; it springs from and is accompanied by deliberation and freedom of choice. There are, therefore, two essential elements of abandonment: first, an intention to abandon and, second, an overt or ‘external’ act by which the intention is carried into effect,” the committee pointed out.
The Ethics Committee considered the designation of Teves as a terrorist by duly-constituted authorities a grave matter.
Such a designation for a sitting House member reportedly brings disrepute to the institution and its members. It also casts doubt on Congress’s commitment to the welfare of the nation and creates a negative impression, both domestically and internationally, said the committee.
“When a Member of the House of Representatives is designated as a terrorist, it poses a significant threat to the integrity and dignity of the institution. It is a serious and unprecedented matter,” the panel explained.
“Pursuant to the Constitution, the provisions of the Rules of the House of Representatives, and the Committee Rules of Procedure for the 19th Congress, the Committee finds that the acts of Rep. A. Teves Jr. constitute disorderly behavior and violate Section 141 (a) and (b), Rule XX of the Code of Conduct of the House of Representatives, and such acts are so grave as to merit the most severe form of disciplinary action allowed by the Constitution in order to protect the institutional integrity of the House of Representatives,” the Committee added.
Rep. Teves reacted to the House vote by describing the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges proceedings as “nothing but that of a kangaroo court, to use a worn-out phrase.”
In a statement, Teves through Ferdinand Topacio, his lead legal counsel, said: “Today is a dark day for the Rule of Law and the dawning of a new age of the tyranny of the majority, where might is right and the prevailing principle is the Law of Force rather than the Force of Law.”
Topacio added: “From the start of the proceedings, it bore all the hallmarks of an inquisition: the Committee was the motu proprio Complainant, making it both the accuser and the judge; Rep. Teves was never allowed to participate in the proceedings by himself, but only through letters of his counsel, who were never even allowed to present; the hearings, although impressed with public interest, was kept secret, like a medieval Court of the Star Chamber; and the final recommendation shows that there was never a bona fide intention to consider the evidence in favor of Mr. Teves. To make matters worse, while the Committee was overly strict in not allowing Rep. Teves to participate in the proceedings, it chose to disregard Section 2 of its own rules which provides that proceedings in the Committee shall be deferred if any matter under discussion is before a judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative body, until after final judgment therein,” Topacio added.
The lawyer said the committee has refused to heed this rule even after incontrovertible proof was adduced showing that the issue of Teves’ designation as “terrorist” is still under review by the Anti-Terrorism Council and that his supposed continued absences are the subject of a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman.
As to his so-called “indecent behavior,” Topacio said the committee has chosen to ignore jurisprudence enumerating what may constitute “disorderly conduct,” under which Teves’ social media posts clearly do not fall.
“Just like the indictments from the Department of Justice, whose neutrality has been severely compromised by its secretary’s reckless disregard of the law, the action of the committee, and the validation thereof by the plenary under the iron grip of a Speaker hell-bent on destroying perceived political opponents, the outcome is hardly unexpected. Having been liberated from the procedural and legal monstrosities of both the DOJ and the HOR, we can now shift the battle to a place where, it is hoped, we will get fairness and due process,” he said.