DOJ chief changes tune on Koko

Robertzon Ramirez - The Philippine Star
DOJ chief changes tune on Koko
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the DOJ “will investigate and resolve Sen. Koko Pimentel’s case in exactly the same way that the DOJ handles all other cases brought before it.”
Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) changed its tune yesterday on the case of Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, after it received flak from the public on what appeared to be its soft treatment of the senator who breached COVID-19 quarantine protocols.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the DOJ “will investigate and resolve Sen. Koko Pimentel’s case in exactly the same way that the DOJ handles all other cases brought before it.”

Pimentel was chastised on social media after he allegedly went to the Makati Medical Center (MMC) to accompany his wife Kathryna, who was about to give birth on Tuesday, without disclosing that he is a person under investigation for COVID-19. While there, the senator said he received a call from the Research Institute of Tropical Medical that relayed the information he was positive for the virus.

Aside from Pimentel, Guevarra also drew the public’s ire when he said that they will act only if a complaint will be filed against Pimentel and that they will address the issue with “human compassion,” contrary to how law enforcers impose warrantless arrests against ordinary violators and often subject them to physical punishment like sitting under the hot sun or even beatings.

The MMC decried Pimentel’s actions as “irresponsible and reckless,” with up to 22 of the hospital’s personnel on home quarantine because of him.

Pimentel has apologized for his actions and appealed for understanding but Malcañang said that no one will be exempted from the law.

With Guevarra’s previous statement, private lawyer Rico Quicho said that he is drafting a complaint to hold Pimentel liable for criminal, civil and administrative charges for breaching MMC’s medical protocol.

Quicho said that he is still waiting for other medical groups in the Philippines to send more information on the case build-up against Pimentel.

“For those asking, please know that I am determined to pursue legal action against Senator Koko despite MMC’s statement that it wants to move on from the issue,” Quicho said in a statement.

Quicho issued the statement after MMC announced on Thursday that it has noted the apology from Pimentel.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia also rebuked Guevarra, saying that the law should apply to all violators regardless of their social status, as he emphasized that law applied to the “powerless and the poor” should be the same law applied for the “powerful and privileged.”

“I do not agree with (Guevarra) on ‘selective compassion.’ Credibility requires consistency. It cannot be the law is harsh but it is the law for the poor and powerless, and then the law must be tempered with mercy and compassion only for the powerful and privileged,” Olalia said.

Ready to face charges

Pimentel said yesterday he was ready to face any charges related to his violating strict quarantine protocols.

The senator could be charged for violating Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act. Prior to the incident, the MMC reminded the public through its social media accounts on the existence of the law.

“I will respond to their specific allegations in due time after we read them and compare with what is in the law,” Pimentel told reporters.

The Philippine National Police said it is ready to investigate Pimentel’s supposed breach of quarantine protocols if a complaint is filed.

PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said they are ready to launch an investigation but so far no complaint has been filed by the hospital or any aggrieved party against the senator. – With Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez, Romina Cabrera




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