News Provinces

Special election to replace Teves in Negros Oriental scrapped

DUMAGUETE CITY/MANILA – In a sudden twist, the Commission on Elections has scrapped the special elections to replace expelled congressman Arnulfo Teves Jr. upon advice of the House of Representatives.

In the meantime, the House designated Speaker Martin Romualdez as caretaker for the district of Teves and also the district of the late Palawaan congressman Edward Hagedorn.

The Comelec earlier set the December 9 polls.

Chairman George Garcia said they received a copy of the Resolution of the House seeking the cancellation of the special elections which the Comelec readily approved.

“Special election for the third legislative district of the province of Negros Oriental is deemed recalled and abandoned upon passage of House Resolution No. 154. Therefore, in recognition of the legislative power of Congress, the Law Department and the en banc decided to cancel the conduct of the special elections in the third legislative district of the province of Negros Oriental, and for the Commission to discontinue its ongoing preparation for the said special elections,” Garcia explained.

“Ang Congress ang may kapangyarihan magpatawag ng special elections, ang Congress din ang may kapangyarihan na huwag din magpatawag ng special election,” he added

Resolution 154 signed by House Speaker Martin Romualdez cited three reasons for the recall:

  1. Pending disqualification cases in Central Visayas against winners in the recent Village and Youth Council polls;
  2. Former Negros Oriental Arnolfo Teves Jr who is still questioning his expulsion as member of the House of Representatives;
  3. The possible negative impact of the special elections on the peace and order situation in the area.

Prior to the cancellation of the special elections, the third district of Negros Oriental was expecting  a possible “battle” between two controversial political names during the special poll on Dec. 9.

This as the widow of slain Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, was expected to submit her certificate of candidacy (COC) within the filing period Nov. 6 to 11.

Likewise, former governor Pryde Henry Teves, younger brother of expelled Arnolfo Teves Jr., may file the same.

Two other potential candidates for the third district are incumbent Siaton Mayor Fritz Diaz and retired Philippine Navy colonel Rey Lopez, both known allies of the Degamos, have filed their COCs.

Diaz and Lopez have been openly talking on social media about their possibility to seek election next month. 

Lopez, a retired Philippine Navy officer and an ally of the slain Governor Roel Degamo filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) on Tuesday with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) provincial office in Negros Oriental, the first candidate to contest the third district Congressional seat in the province.

Rey Lopez submitted his COC and other documents to the Comelec and completed all requirements with no issues before noon, said lawyer Eliseo Labaria, acting provincial election supervisor of Negros Oriental.

Lopez, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1992 and who hails from Siaton, Negros Oriental, is running as an independent but is a close ally of the former deceased governor and his widow, Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo.

In the May 9, 2022 national elections, Lopez ran under the Nacionalista Party for the third district under the Degamo ticket but lost to Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr., who was expelled this year for a variety of reasons such as continued absence from the Lower House and his refusal to return to the country after his official leave had expired.

“The role of Comelec is just ministerial, and therefore we will accept COCs filed by anyone interested to run representative of Negros Oriental, regardless of the issues concerning their qualifications, and provided they are not barred by law from running,” said lawyer Lionel Marco Castillano, Comelec-Central Visayas director.

“If there are questions regarding the legality of an aspirant’s COC filing, any individual or party can always lodge a disqualification complaint against that person, and there is due process for that,” he added.

Teves Jr. was officially removed by the House of Representatives on Aug. 16 on several grounds, including abandonment of public office and indecent behavior.

“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,” read the 18-page report of the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, making Teves Jr. the first House member to be dropped from the rolls sans a prior court conviction for a criminal offense.

Teves Jr., who has not returned to the country since the expiration of his official leave of absence in early March, is tagged as the alleged mastermind in the assassination of Governor Degamo and nine others on March 4.

The Anti-Terrorism Council also tagged the Teves siblings and 11 others as terrorists in a resolution dated July 26, 2023, citing killings and harassments in Negros Oriental that created an “atmosphere or spread a message of fear.”