The Department of Justice (DoJ) should be called the “Department of Injustice,” former University of Makati law dean Rico Quicho said, after his complaint against Sen. Aquilino Martin “Koko” Pimentel III for breaching quarantine protocols last year was junked by the DoJ.
“They tried to sweep it under the rug. At the end of the day, justice must always prevail and they let Koko Pimentel get away with a crime,” Quicho said during an interview over CNN Philippines Friday. “So this is the ‘Department of Injustice,’” he added.
Quicho lamented that the DoJ justified “how they would let go of Koko Pimentel while thousands of ordinary citizens have been languishing in jail because of breach of protocols.” Quicho said the DoJ ruling is also “sending a very wrong signal to the public.”
“We are still in the middle of the pandemic and then there is this decision stating that you could go out, you could just breach protocol,” he said. “Just because Koko Pimentel happens to be a senator, happens to be in the good graces of this administration, he has a free pass,” he added.
In his complaint, Quicho accused Pimentel of violating Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of the Public Health Concern for visiting the Makati Medical Center (MMC) last March 24 even though the senator was suspected of having COVID-19.
Prosecution Atty. Honey Delgado, spokesperson of the DoJ Office of the Prosecutor General (OPG), announced last Thursday the complaint has been dismissed by the prosecutor handling the case for “lack of probable cause.”
“The mandatory reporting under RA No. 11332 was meant for public health authorities only,” Delgado said.
Assuming Pimentel was mandated to report his medical condition under RA 11332, Delgado said, “there was nothing to report then when he went to S&R BGC on 16 March 2020 or at MMC hospital on 24 March 2020 for Sen. Koko Pimentel only knew or learned about his condition of being positive for COVID-19 on the same day – 24 March 2020, while he was already at the premises of the hospital.”
Quicho, however, reminded that “nothing in RA 11332 would have distinguished a person from someone that the Department of Justice in their resolution created.”
“It is very clear under the provision of the law, Section 9, it was stated there ‘person or entity’,” he argued.
Since Pimentel underwent COVID-19 testing on March 20, 2020, Quicho reminded that “the Department of Health issued a circular stating that if a person under investigation or under monitoring would undergo testing they need to follow strict quarantine procedures.”
“Under the provisions of the circulars of the Department of Health he is mandated to observe the quarantine protocols,” the lawyer said.
Delgado said that Quicho is not the proper party to file the complaint and the complainant also only submitted news reports which are considered hearsay evidence.
Quicho refuted this and said that his complaint included the statements from the MMC. The lawyer also said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) conducted an investigation on the incident at the request of the DoH which acted on his letter request.
“By virtue of that request, Makati Medical Center provided incident reports detailing and positively identifying Koko Pimentel being present at Makati Med, breaching protocols, not even wearing a mask,” he said. “Everything is documented. It could not be hearsay. Why? Because anyone could present documents, evidence, not only your personal knowledge but also based on public records,” Quicho added.