NBI summons Vico Sotto for 'violating' Bayanihan Law

MANILA, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has summoned Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto for supposedly violating Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act that gave President Rodrigo Duterte the special power to "ensure" that all local officials follow the national guidelines on responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin confirmed on Wednesday, April 1, that 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," Lavin said.

Lavin added that Sotto is scheduled to appear at the NBI on April 7 at 10 am.

In a tweet, Sotto said, "We complied with all directives."

Lavin has not responded yet to a question about which specific act or policy in Pasig they were investigating.

But earlier, Sotto appealed to Malacañang if he could allow tricycles to operate in his city to ferry frontliners and people with emergencies, saying that their risk assessment showed that tricycles were crucial to ensuring mobility for frontliners. 

Malacañang rejected the pitch, saying that allowing tricycles would defeat the purpose of social distancing. Duterte went on national television immediately after to tell LGUs to "stand down."

Sotto did not push through with his proposal. At the time, the Bayanihan Law was not yet enacted.

"Hindi po illegal magbigay ng opinyon...at alam kaya nila na March 24 naging batas ang Bayanihan Act (It's not illegal to give an opinion, and do they know that the Bayanihan Act was only enacted on March 24)?Sotto said on Wednesday, in response to the NBI investigation.

Laws cannot be applied retroactively.

"Penal provisions of any law are not applied retroactively unless the offense is a continuing one and its commission has not been stopped," said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

The NBI on Tuesday, March 31, started investigating local government officials for possible violation of Bayanihan Law's Section 4(g) which authorized Duterte 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."

Section 6(a) imposes up to two-month jail time or up to P1-million fine on local officials who disobey national guidelines.

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

Lavin earlier said they would do this even without complaints filed against these officials.

The Department of Justice (DOJ), which supervises the NBI, earlier said it cannot ask the bureau to investigate Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel Jr for quarantine protocol breach if there is no prior complaint. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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