Vico Sotto can't be prosecuted for violating Bayanihan law – DILG

MANILA, Philippines – Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto cannot be prosecuted for supposedly violating Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Thursday, April 2.

"The DILG position is that we agree with DOJ (Department of Justice) Secretary Guevarra that Mayor Vico Sotto can’t be prosecuted for violating the Bayanihan Act because the alleged offenses were committed prior to its effectivity into law," DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said in a text message to Rappler.

Wiithout directly referring to the Pasig mayor's case, Guevarra earlier said that "[p]enal provisions of any law are not applied retroactively unless the offense is a continuing one and its commission has not been stopped."

What did Sotto do? Sotto earlier appealed to Malacañang to allow Pasig tricycles to operate to ferry frontliners and people with emergencies.

Malacañang and the DILG rejected the pitch, saying that allowing tricycles to ply the roads would run against the purpose of the lockdown or "enhanced community quarantine" for cutting the spread of the novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19.

On Wednesday, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin announced that they had summoned Sotto "for disobeying national government policies or directives in imposing quarantines." The NBI is under the DOJ.

Sotto, however, had already complied with the government order against tricycles during the lockdown on March 19. The Bayanihan Act, which gives President Rodrigo Duterte special powers to address the coronavirus pandemic, was signed on March 25.

Malaya says no reason for summons: Malaya said the NBI's move against Sotto was a "useless political distraction" since Sotto had also heeded the national government's directive.

"My personal opinion is that it’s a useless political distraction because Mayor Vico has already cooperated with the DILG and he has banned the use of tricycles as public transportation in compliance with IATF guidelines and Secretary Año’s request. Therefore I see no reason for the summons," he said.

"With all due respect to the NBI, we should consider this matter closed and we should instead focus all our time, efforts and energy in defeating COVID-19 which is our common enemy," Malaya said. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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