Dismissal of raps vs Pimentel dents gov’t resolve in implementing quarantine, says lawyer
MANILA, Philippines — The dismissal of complaints against Senator Koko Pimentel for allegedly violating quarantine regulations has cast doubt on the government’s seriousness about implementing protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a lawyer who filed a complaint against the senator said Thursday night.
According to Atty. Rico Quicho, the ruling of the Department of Justice’s Office of the Prosecutor General also put to question the government’s policies about quarantine restrictions, saying rules seemed to tilt towards the “powerful and the privileged.”
Pimentel drew flak during the early stages of the pandemic after he brought his pregnant wife to the Makati Medical Center last March, despite him being placed under quarantine for possible coronavirus infection. He eventually learned that he tested positive while he was at the hospital — leading to the hospital’s condemnation of his irresponsible actions.
“When policies and pronouncements change arbitrarily contingent on who receives the shorter end of the stick, there are no policies or principles to speak of. These policies then become tools of oppression against those disfavored by people in power,” Quicho said.
“Chief Executors of the ECQ, including the DOJ, were firm and clear in their early pronouncements that ‘there will be no more warning for ECQ violators […] However, today’s dismissal by the DOJ of the quarantine breach complaint filed against Mr. Koko Pimentel places into serious doubt the government’s commitment to exact accountability from those who willfully or negligently put the lives of our front liners in danger,” he added.
Quicho also said the ruling on Pimentel might send a wrong message to the public — that some people may suffer penalties prescribed by the law, but officials and those in government get a free pass.
Pimentel faced complaints for supposed violation of Republic Act No. 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act after he went into the hospital despite being placed under quarantine, and even if health workers have been striving to avoid the disease in order to attend to patients.
Pimentel welcomed the decision, saying a non-expert like him could not be made criminally liable for something that he was not expected to be knowledgeable about.
He further said the decision is correct because the complainant has no personal knowledge of what happened.
Quicho, reacting to the dismissal of the complaint that he filed on behalf of the medical staff of the hospital where Pimentel’s wife was brought to, recalled in stark contrast the mauling of a fish vendor in Quezon City for not wearing a face mask while selling his goods last April, when most of Luzon and other areas were placed under a stringent enhanced community quarantine.
“We are sadly reminded of a fish vendor in Quezon City who was violently arrested for failure to comply with government regulations. He was beaten with a stick, dragged, and humiliated in public,” Quicho said.
“We, however, plead not for the repetition of the inhumane treatment to a powerless individual who is merely out to earn a buck. Such exhibition of overzealousness is one too many. But we do ask a poignant question which, at this time, is surely shared by most: is there a different set of rules for Mr. Koko Pimentel, the powerful and the privileged, and a different set for the fish vendor, the weak, the forgotten and the ‘unimportant’?” he asked.
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