EVEN as he announced his willingness to return to the country to clear his name against allegations that he was behind the brutal and brazen killing of Governor Roel Degamo Congressman Arnolfo Teves Jr. insists that he will stay outside of the country until his personal safety and that of his family is guaranteed by the government.
This matter has already been communicated by his lawyers not only to the media but to the Lower House in Congress where Representative Teves works. Unfortunately for the congressman, Speaker of the House Martin Romualdez has already issued a statement to the public that he has turned down (denied) the request of Congressman Teves to extend his stay in the United States for another two months. The representative of the 3rd District of Negros Oriental previously went abroad last February 27 under a travel authority to the US for medical treatment. That travel authority lapsed last March 9, 2023, but he asked for a two-month extension of his travel until May 9, 2023.
In speaking to the media, Speaker Romualdez called on his colleague, Rep. Teves, to immediately return home to the country so that he can report for work since he no longer has any authority to travel abroad. Also, Romualdez added that his colleagues in the Lower House would also want to hear the side of Teves in connection with the murder of Governor Degamo and allegations that the former is the brains behind the crime. Romualdez also reiterated the assurance that they, the Lower House, will do their best to secure the safe return of Teves to the country.
We have no way of knowing whether the call and assurances made by Speaker Romualdez have reached the ears of Congressman Teves, but the latest information received by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla tends to show that the congressman is already on the move with Secretary Remulla disclosing that Teves is no longer in the United States but is already somewhere in Southeast Asia.
If the information supplied by the justice secretary is legitimate, then-Congressman Teves runs the risk of having his travel outside the country without lawful authority being considered as “flight” in order to avoid facing the music for criminal charges already filed against him in the proper courts and, being linked to the killing of governor Degamo, for which additional criminal charges may be filed against him in the near future.
Now “flight” within the meaning of criminal law pertains to the, “evading of the course of justice by voluntarily withdrawing oneself in order to avoid arrest or detention or the institution or continuance of criminal proceedings.” (https://lawphil.net/judjuris/juri1913/oct1913/gr_l-8448_1913.html)
In a case decided by the Supreme Court, it had occasion to state that, “it is well-established that the flight of an accused is competent evidence to indicate his guilt; and flight, when unexplained, is a circumstance from which an inference of guilt may be drawn. Indeed, the wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the innocent are as bold as a lion.” (https://lawphil.net/judjuris/juri2013/jun2013/gr_189846_2013.html#:~:text=In%20one%20case%2C%20this%20Court,as%20bold%20as%20a%20lion.)
At this time the only explanation offered by Congressman Teves for his refusal to return to the country is the fear of safety for his person and that of the members of his family.
For the sake of giving the benefit of the doubt, perhaps the leadership of the Lower House of Congress can ask from their colleague Congressman Teves what assurances and guarantees are needed and required so that he can already come home immediately and face the charges against him. In this way the ball will be in his court, so to speak. Until then we can only surmise that his continued refusal to go back to work and to come home is simply his way of showing disdain for the legitimate processes of law and perhaps due to his belief that he is above the law.