MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Wednesday frowned on the move of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to summon Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto over his alleged violation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, with one lawmaker saying that the agency’s action is “unconstitutional.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto III pointed out that laws “are never retroactive if detrimental to any accused.”
“What are they talking about?” the Senate president said over Twitter.
“NBI will be well advised to be cautious in their interpretation of the law I principally authored. Any so-called violation of (Republic Act) 11469 (Bayanihan to Heal as One Act) can’t be retroactive!” he added.
NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin said the purpose of the “invitation letter” sent to the 30-year-old Pasig mayor is to enable him to explain his side on the allegation that he disobeyed the national government policy in imposing the community quarantine in light of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered local government units to “stand down” and let the national government call the shots after reports supposedly reached his office that some local officials “go beyond” the quarantine rules, with a warning that those who would “overdo things” will face administrative or even criminal charges.
The President’s warning came after the Pasig mayor allowed the limited operation of tricycles in his city to ferry health workers and patients with immediate medical needs to hospitals amid the Luzon lockdown.
‘Why the hostile attention?’
“Andaming kailangang bigyan ng solusyon: nagkakasakit na health workers, mga nagugutom. Why hostile attention to well-performing leaders like Vico?” Senator Risa Hontiveros said over Twitter.
Like Sotto, Hontiveros said the Bayanihan law “could not be applied retroactively (and) doesn’t suspend the right to dissent or express views.”
“May na-insecure ba?” she further said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile, stressed that a possible case against Sotto for acts done before the effectivity of the Bayanihan law “will not fly” as it would go against Article III, Sec. 22 of the Constitution, which states, “[n]o ex post facto law or bill of attainder shall be enacted.”
“Paano nilabag ni Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto ang batas na hindi pa batas? Ginamit ang mga improvised tricycle bago mag-March 18. Umapela, tinanggihan, at sumunod sa utos si Mayor Vico March 19. Naging batas ang Bayanihan to Act Heal as One Act noong March 24,” Pangilinan pointed out in a statement.
“Sa madaling salita, labag sa Saligang-Batas na gawing krimen ang isang bagay na nagawa na bago pa man maipasa ang bagong batas,” he added.
Pangilinan also said the “threats” to file cases against the Sotto should stop.
“Nagtatrabaho siya nang mabuti at naghahanap ng solusyon at paraan para makatulong. Habulin ang mga tunay na pahirap ngayong may epidemya,” the senator said.
“Panawagan ko sa mga kapwa lingkod-bayan: Huwag tayong magpagamit sa ibang interes at kapritso—kapakanan ng taumbayan sana ang pokus natin sa lahat ng oras lalo na ngayong panahon ng peligro. Huwag na ninyong dagdagan ang mga kapalpakan at pagsipsip. Hindi kayo nakakatulong. Umayos kayo,” he added.
Senator Panfilo Lacson explained that the law only has a retroactive effect on provisions concerning the P1 million indemnity given to families of medical workers who may die fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As to prohibited acts, there is no need to say more. It is a no-brainer,” Lacson said in a tweet.
Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, said the Pasig mayor “has always prioritized his constituencies welfare at all times.”
“In fact, he has best practices that other LGUs started to emulate nationwide. His ideas make sense,” Villanueva said.
“So, our question is do we really need this notice right now when we want our local government officials to mobilize all the resources they have to respond to their constituents’ needs? We have an urgent task at hand, and distractions such as this doesn’t help. In times of crises, equity should be exercised by our authorities,” he added.