Ex-law dean offers help in suing Pimentel for quarantine breach

Lian Buan

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Ex-law dean offers help in suing Pimentel for quarantine breach
'May this also serve as a needed reminder that the rule of law is superior to the rule of any public official,' says lawyer Rico Quicho, whose offer to help is out of 'disbelief and frustration' over the DOJ's 'double standards'



MANILA, Philippines – Former University of Makati law dean Rico Quicho said on Thursday, March 26, that he is drafting a complaint against Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for breaching the Department of Health (DOH) protocol when he visited the Makati Medical Center (MMC) despite being on self-quarantine.

“Drafting complaint. I want to be as thorough as possible,” Quicho told reporters on Thursday.

He said he was “waiting for other medical associations to send more info.”

Pimentel announced on Wednesday, March 25, that he tested positive for coronavirus and that he found out when he was at the MMC with his wife Kathryna who was due deliver their child that day.  Pimentel, who had flu symptoms on March 14 and was tested on March 20, was supposed to be a person under investigation (PUI) for the coronavirus and should have been in quarantine until March 28.

MMC Medical Director Saturnino Javier had slammed Pimentel’s action as “irresponsible and reckless” breach of protocol, as it exposed their staff to the virus and “added to the burden of a hospital trying to respond to its most competent and aggressive manner to cope with the daunting challenges of this COVID-19 outbreak.”

Quicho is urging medical staff or patients at the hospital to stand as witnesses against Pimentel.

“Kung meron tayong kakilalang pwedeng maging testigong doctor, nurse, o pamilya ng pasyente, sabihan ‘nyo kami (If you know a doctor, nurse, or patient’s family who’s willing to be a witness, let us know). We are coordinating with different medical associations, individuals, and concerned citizens and we encourage MMC to review their CCTV footage and join us in clarifying the facts of the situation and holding those responsible to account,” Quicho said.

In an ANC interview on Thursday morning, Javier that he would leave it up to the hospital management to decide on pressing charges against Pimentel.

“I would not want to venture on that aspect yet. I don’t have the legal expertise to go into this but I will assure you that if there is a need our people behind then, the management will look into that as needed. But I will not venture into that aspect yet,” Javier said, in response to questions.

DOJ stance 

Republic Act  No. 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases Act punishes under Section 9(e) the non-cooperation of “person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease.”

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the DOJ could not investigate Pimentel without a complaint, saying facts have not been established.

“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,” said Guevarra.

Guevarra and DOJ spokesman Undersecretary Markk Perete also ruled out a warrantless arrest, even though the department previously said lockdown violators can be arrested without warrant under RA 11332. Perete said it’s because Pimentel was not caught in the act.

To this, Quicho said, “Do we look to the DOJ who interprets the law harshly and rigorously against us normal citizens but asks that we ‘temper the rigor of the law with human compassion’ when it comes to a senator?” 

Quicho said their offer to help is out of “disbelief and frustration” over the DOJ’s “double standards.”

“Our indignation will not just pass. Accountability does not take a back seat because there is a pandemic. May this also serve as a needed reminder that the rule of law is superior to the rule of any public official,” said Quicho.

On Thursday, it was confirmed that Pimentel did not only break his quarantine once, after membership shopping chain S&R verified that he shopped at its BCG store in Taguig City on March 16, when he was supposed to be a PUI. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.