MANILA -- (UPDATE) A lawyer on Monday filed a criminal complaint against Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for going out in public despite showing symptoms of COVID-19 for which he later tested positive, an incident that raised questions over how the government was implementing its community quarantine policy.
The complaint emailed to the Department of Justice by lawyer Rico Quicho cited Pimentel’s supposed violation of the law on the mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases and epidemics, an offense that could send him to jail for up to 6 months on top of a fine.
The lawyer punishes the “non-cooperation of the person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease, or affected by the health event of public concern.”
Pimentel was heavily criticized for accompanying his pregnant wife to the Makati Medical Center last March 24 or 4 days after he was tested for the new coronavirus.
A CCTV footage also saw him shopping at the S&R supermarket in Taguig City on March 16 or 2 days after he already showed COVID-19 symptoms such as flu and body pains.
Quicho said the senator “blatantly violated laws, which put the lives and health of frontliners and even ordinary citizens at grave risk.”
“He has categorically admitted his breach without remorse. And yet because of his position, he is still not being made accountable,” Quicho said in a statement sent to ABS-CBN News.
Pimentel told Senate reporters that he had not read the complaint, adding he was not familiar with the procedure of filing by email
“Sana to be fair to me, (Quicho) furnishes me with a copy so I can answer/respond,” he said.
Pimentel earlier issued an apology after the MMC denounced his “irresponsible and reckless action,” which “added to the burden of a hospital trying to respond in its most competent and aggressive manner to cope with the daunting challenges of this COVID-19 outbreak.”
Quicho urged the Department of Justice to “be true to its commitment to the Filipino people to uphold the rule of law without fear or favor.”
“We are one with the Filipino people in condemning negligent and reckless acts which expose the public, especially our health workers to unnecessary risks,” he said.
A preliminary investigation will be set “on such date as may be appropriate” because of the current lockdown, said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
“We assure everyone that the justice department will apply the law fairly and uniformly, regardless of the status of the respondent, with due respect at all times to the rights of the respondent,” he said.
Guevarra said the DOJ investigation would be “without prejudice” to the one earlier initiated by the National Bureau of Investigation.