Pimentel to DOJ: I was not a PUI when I went to Makati Med

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III filed a defense before the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a quarantine breach complaint saying that he was not a person under investigation (PUI) when he went to the Makati Medical Center on March 24.

The complaint was filed against Pimentel by former law dean Rico Quicho. Quicho was prompted to file a complaint against Pimentel after the DOJ said it would not launch an investigation of its own into the alleged quarantine breach, and said a complaint had to be filed first.

After 3 months of back and forth, Pimentel finally submitted a counter-affidavit to the DOJ saying he was not a PUI and was not required to go under mandatory self-quarantine.

Pimentel was slammed, including by the Makati Med management, for accompanying his then pregnant wife to the hospital even after exhibiting symptoms and getting tested for coronavirus.

Pimentel found out he was positive on the same day of the hospital visit, on March 24, which prompted Makati Med to disinfect areas and facilities, affecting their overall operations.

"Atty Quicho theorizes that by having a sample collected for Covid-19 testing on March 20, 2020, I was already identified as a Person Under Investigation (PUI) and was required to undergo a mandatory self-quarantine. Atty Quicho's reasoning is that since a PUI has to be tested then all those who have been tested are PUIs. He is grossly mistaken," Pimentel said in his affidavit, excerpts of which were obtained by Rappler on Thursday, July 16.

Not PUI, just VIP

Pimentel cited Health Secretary Francisco Duque's admission to media that some VIPs requested testing. Pimentel seemed to be implying that the VIPs included him. 

"This is just a statement of fact and I am not praising or endorsing this VIP testing. Hence, what is the inevitable implication of this fact? That not all of those tested for Covid 19 as of March 20, 2020 were PUIs. Some were simply VIPs," said Pimentel.

But was he not a PUI?

By Department of Health (DOH) standards at the time, a PUI is someone who has at least two of these qualifications:

  • Signs and symptoms;
  • Travel history in the past 14 days to areas with issued travel restriction;
  • History of exposure.

Pimentel found out on March 11 that a resource person at a Senate hearing had tested positive for coronavirus. Pimentel was not at that hearing, but he talked to senators who were there, like Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Nancy Binay. 

Gatchalian and Binay immediately went into self-quarantine.

By March 14, Pimentel started getting body pains, and decided to isolate.

By March 18, Pimentel said he had a fever of about 38 degrees celsius and had sore throat. He took a test for coronavirus on March 20.

PUIs, by DOH standards at the time, were "for hospital admission."

Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs) were to go on "self-quarantine for 14 days."

PUMs are people who have:

  • Travel history the past 14 days to areas with travel restriction; 
  • History of exposure;
  • Or both.

"Entitled VIP at its finest. Your move, DOJ," Quicho said in a Facebook post on Wednesday, July 15.

Quicho's complaint

Pimentel said Quicho's complaint is "fatally defective" because they were based "principally on news reports."

"Considering Atty Quicho's lack of personal knowledge, I am being charged based on mere hearsay," said Pimentel in his counter-affidavit.

"It is a basic rule in evidence that a witness can testify only on the fact that he knows of his own personal knowledge, i.e those which are derived from his own perception," said Pimentel.

Quicho filed a complaint for violation of Section 9(e) of Republic Act 11332 which punishes the "non-cooperation of the person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease."

The DOJ itself has cited this law to justify even the warrantless arrest of those who violated quarantine protocols during the strict lockdown, for example people who went out without a government-acknowledged essential task.

"No prosecutor would go to court with such an incompetent witness," said Pimentel.

Pimentel also accused Quicho of using the incident for his political ambitions. "The pursuit of justice is not the cause of Atty Quicho. Mark my words: Someone is preparing early for the 2022 elections," said Pimentel.

"I was even falsely accused of using this complaint as a platform for my own agenda, as if that were enough to distract the DOJ from his blatant violations. These are the excuses of a man who had been enjoying 113 days of impunity and who had been enjoying VIP favors from then until now," said Quicho on Facebook.

Prosecutor General Ben Malcontento said Quicho has 5 days from receipt to reply to Pimentel, after which the senator could still file a rejoinder.

"Let's wait how this will progress," said Malcontento. – 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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