MANILA, Philippines – For local government unit (LGU) officials who will disobey the guidelines set by the national government, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will exert its full powers and investigate without the need for a complaint.
"Yes (no need for complaint), the director already ordered the agents to conduct the investigations," NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin told reporters Wednesday, April 1.
"Director Eric Distor has already ordered all regional and district offices and all Manila operating divisions to conduct investigations on this in coordination with LGUs and other counterparts," added Lavin.
The NBI, either on its own order or upon the order of the Department of Justice (DOJ), can legally investigate without the need for a complaint.
That power, however, did not kick in when coronavirus-positive Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III breached quarantine protocol when he visited the Makati Medical Center (MMC), an action slammed by the hospital as "reckless and irresponsible." Republic Act 11332 punishes the non-cooperation of people with the disease in a public health emergency.
"During abnormal times like this, when people are prone to commit mistakes or violations of the law, the DOJ will temper the rigor of the law with human compassion. But this is not to say that the DOJ will not act upon the filing of a proper complaint by any interested party," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had said.
The top orders from NBI, however, only came Tuesday, March 31, when Malacañang had already reported to the congressional oversight committee that the bureau was "investigating and filing charges."
"Director Eric Distor ordered last March 31 all the operating units of NBI to conduct investigations on possible violations of the community quarantine. Investigations still ongoing," Lavin said.
Malacañang's weekly report, dated Monday, March 30, was transmitted to Congress 12:41 am of Tuesday, March 31.
It said: "The NBI is investigating and filing charges against local government officials who wilfully disregard, contravene, or violate national guidelines on community quarantine set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID)."
Upon the report's release, reporters followed up with both the DOJ and NBI on the nature of the cases, but Lavin said he was still "checking."
Section 4(g) of the Bayanihan Law gave President Rodrigo Duterte the special power to "ensure that all Local Government Units (LGUs) are acting within the letter and spirit of all the rules, regulations and directives issued by the National Government."
Duterte has always warned local officials they will be charged with dereliction to duty if they do not follow national government guidelines.