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DOJ to act only if complaint filed vs. Koko Pimentel over Makati Med trip

The Department of Justice (DOJ) will not investigate Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III for his alleged breach of home quarantine protocol unless it receives a complaint, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Wednesday night.

Guevarra said the DOJ would "temper" the law with compassion.

"As I have said before, during abnormal times like these, when people are prone to commit mistakes or violations of the law, the DOJ will temper the rigor of the law with human compassion," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

"But this is not to say that the DOJ will not act upon the filing of a proper complaint by any interested party," he added.

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said that "for a complaint to prosper, those who have personal knowledge of the incident should file the complaint."

He added that reports so far "have not alleged circumstances establishing the requirements" for the grounds for warrantless arrest for a potential violation of Republic Act No. 11332.

The law penalizes the "non-cooperation" of persons who either have a notifiable disease or should report or respond to such diseases.

Asked if the DOJ would start an investigation by itself, Guevarra said: "The facts are unfolding by themselves."

"The parties directly concerned are speaking publicly about the incident. Third parties (some thirsting for blood) are bringing in information from all sources into the open," Guevarra said.

"Leave it to us determine whether a motu proprio investigation by the NBI would still be necessary," he added.

Asked if Pimentel would be covered by parliamentary immunity, Guevarra said immunity is not applicable if Congress is not in session.

The Makati Medical Center has denounced what it called Pimentel's "irresponsible and reckless action" of allegedly bringing his pregnant wife Kathryna to the hospital on Tuesday evening for delivery via caesarean section.

"He 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," MMC Medical Director Saturnino Javier said in a statement.

Pimentel announced on Wednesday that he was positive for COVID-19.

He said he tried to limit his movement since March 11. Though he admitted he accompanied his wife to the hospital on Tuesday, he claimed he "immediately" left after learning of the positive test result.

The senator said he was still under self-quarantine and was now feeling better.

Both he and his wife said denied that they entered the hospital's delivery room.

Under RA 11332, or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, "non-cooperation" is a prohibited act and is punishable by a fine of P20,000 to P50,000 and/or one to six months of imprisonment.

The DOJ has earlier said people who would violate the rules of the Luzon enhanced community quarantine may be arrested for "non-cooperation" under RA 11332 even if they did not seriously disobey authorities.

In Manila, police officers have arrested curfew violators, many of whom were eventually ordered released by prosecutors.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine effective until midnight of April 13, imposing sweeping restrictions on travel, prohibiting mass gatherings, and ordering residents to stay home unless they have to buy essentials, among other provisions. -NB, GMA News