Amid criticism on Pimentel's clearance, Guevarra says DOJ committed to administer justice fairly

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Amid criticism on Pimentel's clearance, Guevarra says DOJ committed to administer justice fairly
This file photo shows Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday said his department is committed to applying the laws fairly, amid renewed criticism on the dismissal of criminal complaint against Sen. Koko Pimentel who broke his home quarantine protocol in March 2020.

Guevarra, however, refused to comment on the dismissal of complaints against Pimentel saying it can still be elevated and appealed to the Office of the Justice Secretary.

The dismissal of the criminal raps against Pimentel drew strong criticism as accusations of unfair implementation of the law on quarantine violators and other known personalities was again brought up.

RELATED: Whatever happened to: Quarantine violators in Philippine government

Amid criticisms, Guevarra said: “I would like to assure the people that the DOJ is committed to administer our criminal justice system as fairly and equitably as possible.”

The DOJ-Office of the Prosecutor General on Thursday said the complaint filed by private lawyer Rico Quicho against the senator was junked for lack of probable cause.

Quarantine violators warned of RA 11332 and disobedience raps

The prosecution, in resolving the complaint against Pimentel, held that the complaint alleging violation of the Republic Act 11332 — the very same law the government warned quarantine violators with — does not cover the senator’s action when he went to the Makati Medical Center while waiting for the result of his COVID-19 test

In the early part of the lockdown, Guevarra said that those who caught violating quarantine protocols such as heading out of their homes may be arrested without a warrant for violating RA 11332 or the mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases, or for disobedience to authorities under the Revised Penal Code.

Law enforcers proceeded with the warrantless arrests that resulted in thousands in detention, even prompting the Supreme Court in July to stop the suspension of transfer of newly arrested persons to Bureau of Jail Management and Penology units.

The STAR reported last October 25 that 123,994 quarantine violators had been detained since March, with most arrested of them arrested for resistance and disobedience.

READ: As Duterte orders arrest of people without masks, government scrambles to find space for detainees

Guevarra pointed out that the complaints against quarantine violators were later dismissed on prosecution level.

He said: “Please note that a large number of people apprehended by law enforcement officers during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic due to various quarantine violations were subsequently released and their cases dismissed by DOJ inquest prosecutors.”

In dismissing the complaint against Pimentel, the prosecution held that the mandatory reporting provision under RA 11332 is for health authorities only.

The “non-cooperation” provision also does not cover Pimentel’s actions as the prosecution held that there was “nothing to report” when he went out on March 16 and 24 as he has yet to received his COVID-19 test results then.

It added that Pimentel was deemed to have “cooperated” when the left the Makati Medical Center after he found out he tested positive.

It also said that the complaint by Quicho was “fatally defective” as he only presented evidence that are news reports and deemed as hearsay.




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