Duterte distances self from NBI probe vs Vico Sotto

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, April 3, said he did not have anything to do with the National Bureau of Investigation's (NBI) move to summon Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto over supposed violations of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act 

Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act had given Duterte 30 special powers, including one to "ensure" that all local officials follow the national guidelines on responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Wala akong pakialam sa operasyon ng NBI, kung ano gusto nila. Trabaho ng police 'yan. Nandito ako sa taas," Duterte said in a late night speech. 

(I don't care about the operations of the NBI and what they want. That's the work of the police. I'm here at the top.) 

What NBI probe? NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin earlier said the bureau sent Sotto "an invitation letter" for violation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act "for disobeying national government policies or directives in imposing quarantines."

Sotto denied having violated the recently-signed law, saying he complied with all directives from the national government on the coronavirus outbreak. 

"One hundred percent, we have complied," Sotto said. 

Sotto is scheduled to appear at the NBI on Tuesday, April 7 at 10 am.

Model governance: Sotto's efforts to respond to Pasig constituents' needs during the outbreak and the Luzon lockdown have been praised across the political spectrum. 

The young mayor drew the attention of Malacañang when he appealed for tricycles to be allowed to operate in his city in a "limited capacity" to ferry workers and those who were sick. Sotto said their risk assessment showed that tricycles were crucial to ensuring mobility for frontliners.

The Palace rejected Sotto's pitch, saying it did not ensure physical distancing measures could be observed.  

Duterte later told all local government units to "stand down" and follow the national government. At the time of the issue, the Bayanihan law was not yet enacted. 

Malacañang recently reported to Congress as part of oversight that in compliance with Section 4 (g) of the Bayanihan law, the NBI will "investigate and file charges" against local officials. 

The justice department said they will leave it to the NBI to decide the legality of its own probe against Sotto.

As of Friday, the Philippines has 3,018 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 136 deaths and 52 recoveries. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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