A lawyer has filed a criminal complaint against Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III over his alleged breach of self-quarantine for a then-suspected and later confirmed COVID-19 infection.
Rico Quicho said he has emailed the Department of Justice (DOJ) a letter-complaint against the senator "detailing the clear facts and circumstances that establish his direct violation of RA No. 11332 and its implementing rules and other DOH regulations."
Republic Act 11332 prohibits the "non-cooperation of persons or entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern," and the "non-cooperation of persons who have been identified as having the notifiable disease, or those affected by the health event of public concern."
Prohibited acts under this law are punishable by a fine of P20,000 to P50,000 and/or one to six months of imprisonment.
On the same day he announced he had tested positive for COVID-19, Pimentel drew criticism for accompanying his wife to the Makati Medical Center when he should have been under quarantine for a suspected infection.
The hospital condemned the senator's "irresponsible and reckless action." Pimentel said he learned of his COVID-19 test result when he was already in the hospital and left "immediately." He has apologized.
Sought for comment, Pimentel said he has yet to read the complaint.
"Haven't read it. Sana to be fair to me he furnishes me with a copy so I can answer/respond," Pimentel told reporters.
"DOJ I think will find a way to give me a copy. Bago kasi itong email filing I am not familiar with the procedure," he added.
In a public Facebook post, Quicho said his complaint references an online petition that supposedly gathered 200,000 signatures. "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.
"As a lawyer and advocate of the rule of law, I cannot in good conscience allow the reckless actions of Senator Koko Pimentel to be brushed aside so easily," Quicho said.
"He blatantly violated laws, which put the lives and health of frontliners and even ordinary citizens at grave risk," he added.
The lawyer said he hopes the DOJ will act quickly and pursue legal action Pimentel.
At the DOJ level, prosecutors will determine if there is probable cause that Pimentel did what he was accused of and then decide whether or not to file charges in court.
Reached for his comments, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said his department will apply the law '"fairly and uniformly" as regards the complaint.
"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," Guevarra said in a message to reporters.
Last week, Guevarra said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) may initiate its own fact-finding and ask Pimentel to explain his side if Makati Med or any other interested party would not file a complaint.
NBI Director Eric Distor said the senator will be invited to explain.
Earlier, Guevarra said the DOJ will investigate and resolve Pimentel’s case “in exactly the same way that the DOJ handles all other cases brought before it.” --with Dona Magsino/KBK/RSJ, GMA News