DOJ: Pimentel didn’t break quarantine

By: Tina G. Santos - Philippine Daily Inquirer | January 22,2021 - 11:19 AM

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG) under the (DOJ) has dismissed for lack of probable cause the complaint against Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III accusing him of violating quarantine protocols when he accompanied his pregnant wife to a hospital last year despite the possibility that he could be positive for COVID-19.

The DOJ-OPG dismissed the complaint filed by lawyer Rico Quicho against the senator for violation of Republic Act No. 11332, or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, and Department of Health (DOH) issuances.

Pimentel drew flak in March for going to the Makati Medical Center (MMC) with his wife who was due to give birth, just days after he underwent testing for COVID-19.

In his defense, he said he learned he was positive for COVID-19 when he was already at the hospital, prompting him to leave immediately.

Irresponsible, reckless

The hospital, however, called his actions “irresponsible and reckless” for breaching the strict infection and containment protocols for MMC’s delivery room complex.

Shopping chain S&R also confirmed that Pimentel had been to its Bonifacio Global City branch a few days earlier.

But according to the DOJ-OPG, since Pimentel was “not a public health authority,” he was “not obliged to report” under the mandatory reporting provision of RA 11332 that “was meant for public health authorities only.” Assuming that the senator had to report his medical condition as a private individual, the DOJ-OPG said “there was nothing to report” at the time he went to the hospital and S&R on March 24 and 16, respectively.

It added that Pimentel “only knew or learned about his condition of being positive for COVID-19 on the same day—March 24, 2020—while he was already within the premises of the hospital.”

“There is no ‘noncooperation’ under Section 9 (e) of RA 11332 as Sen. Koko Pimentel was deemed to have ‘cooperated’ when he left the hospital premises immediately after receiving the information about his medical condition,” the DOJ-OPG said.

It added that the complaint against him was “fatally defective,” explaining that Quicho was not the proper party to file the complaint while the evidence presented were hearsay.

“News reports, being hearsay evidence, cannot be relied upon as proof of the allegations in the complaint, or as proof of the truth, because they were merely learned, read or heard from others,” it said.

Free pass

A similar complaint against Pimentel was also filed in the National Bureau of Investigation. But prosecution lawyer Honey Delgado, DOJ-OPG spokesperson, said the NBI had submitted to the DOJ a final report recommending that the case be closed and terminated.

According to Quicho, the dismissal of his complaint “places into serious doubt the government’s commitment to exact accountability from those who willfully or negligently put the lives of our front-liners in danger.”

“This promotes the wrong message that ordinary people must suffer the full extent of the law and some, while those in power get a free pass,” he said in a statement to reporters.

“Is there a different set of rules for Mr. Koko Pimentel, the powerful and the privileged, and a different set for the fish vendor, the weak, the forgotten and the ‘unimportant’?” Quicho asked.

“When policies and pronouncements change arbitrarily contingent on who receives the shorter end of the stick, there are no policies or principles to speak of. These policies then become tools of oppression against those disfavored by people in power,” he added.

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TAGS: break, didn’t, DOJ, Pimentel, quarantine, Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, violating quarantine protocols

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