'No law violated': Senators defend Vico Sotto vs NBI summons

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 01 2020 09:56 PM | Updated as of Apr 03 2020 01:25 PM

MANILA - Senators on Wednesday criticized the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for summoning Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto for allegedly violating provisions of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

The NBI earlier said Sotto may have violated provisions in the Bayanihan Act when he allowed tricycles to operate in his jurisdiction despite a ban on public transportation, but lawmakers underscored that the policy was not yet even drafted at the time three-wheeled vehicles in Pasig were allowed to bring some patients to hospitals.

"NBI will be well-advised to be cautious in their interpretation of the law I principally authored. Any so-called violation of RA 11469 (Bayanihan Act) can't be retroactive," Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a tweet.

"What are they talking about? Laws are never retroactive if detrimental to any accused," said the Senate President, who is the Pasig City mayor's uncle.

Opposition Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan said "improvised tricycles" were used in Pasig before March 18, while the law that the NBI has been citing was passed on March 24.

"Paano nilabag ni Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto ang batas na hindi pa batas?" Pangilinan said.

POLITICAL 'INSECURITY?'

Other senators slammed the agency for being "hostile" to "well-performing leaders" instead of delivering quality service to Filipinos who were affected by the coronavirus crisis.

"Andaming kailangang bigyan ng solusyon: nagkakasakit na health workers, mga nagugutom. Why hostile attention to well-performing leaders like Vico?... May na-insecure ba?" Sen. Risa Hontiveros said in a tweet.

"Do we really need this notice right now when we want our local government officials to mobilize all the resources they have to respond to their constituents’ needs?" Sen. Joel Villanueva said in a separate statement.

"We have an urgent task at hand, and distractions such as this doesn’t help," he said.

Mayor Sotto was earlier lauded online for coming up with "creative" solutions to address the global pandemic in his jurisdiction.

Among Pasig City's notable coronavirus-response programs were the establishment of mobile kitchens, portable disinfection facilities, and the deployment of market on wheels to bring basic goods closer to residential areas.

Mayor Sotto also guaranteed that all public sector employees in Pasig will receive full salaries even after the national government advised local officials to enforce a skeletal work schedule to limit the movement of possible coronavirus carriers.

'BEST GIFT EVER' TO PASIG CITY

Vico Sotto is the "best gift ever" to Pasig City, Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier said as he lauded the performance of the 29-year-old mayor during the health crisis.

"Sayang he is only 29-years-old, not 39. If there is any consolation, he is the best gift ever to Pasig City," Lacson wrote in the caption of his Facebook post.

(How regretful that he is only 29 -years-old, not 39.)

Lacson did not clarify why he felt bad that Sotto was "not 39," but under the Constitution, an individual must at least be 40 years old before he or she can run for president.

The hashtag "#ProtectVico" topped worldwide trends hours after the NBI issued the order against Sotto as thousands of netizens - including usually apolitical celebrities - tweet their "disappointment" with the agency.

Mayor Sotto said he would be answering the NBI summon.

"Handa po kami kasi wala naman kaming tinatago," he said.

"Ang malungkot lang, imbes na makapag-trabaho kami ng diretso ay ma-distract pa kami."