A group of lawyers is now preparing criminal charges, which includes a disbarment case, against Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for allegedly violating the Luzon-wide community quarantine when he accompanied his pregnant wife Kathryna to the hospital despite showing symptoms of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Private lawyer Rico Quicho said he is looking into criminal, civil, and administrative charges to hold Pimentel liable for his alleged action.
The Makati Medical Center (MMC) has called Pimentel’s breach as “irresponsible and reckless.”
“Drafting complaint. I want to be as thorough as possible. Waiting for other medical associations to send more info,” Quicho said.
In a Facebook post, Quicho said they are preparing a complaint based on provisions of the Revised Penal Code and special laws, and told the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), doctors, nurses, and patients that they can file complaints of their own.
According to Quicho, Pimentel violated the law on the “mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases and health events of public health concern.”
Quicho is working on the case with nine other lawyers.
Earlier, Pimentel’s results came out positive triggering widespread condemnation for exposing doctors and other health workers at the Makati Medical Center (MMC) to possible infection.
“He is not only an ordinary citizen. He is a senator of the republic. As a lawmaker, he should not be a lawbreaker,” Quicho said.
“Sa tuwing nagsasalita si Sen. Pimentel, lalo lang nakikita na very irresponsible yung ginawa nya, very reckless (Every time Sen. Pimentel speaks, it becomes more obvious that what he did was very irresponsible, very reckless.),” said Quicho.
Quicho described his group’s upcoming complaint as a “test case.”
The said case could “encourage other citizens” to also go after Rep. Eric Yap, who attended a Malacañang meeting and a special session of Congress despite already getting tested for COVID-10.
Yap’s test results also came out positive for COVID-19.
As this developed, the Office of the Ombudsman said they are discussing whether or not to investigate Pimentel who broke COVID-19 quarantine protocols when he went with his wife to the MMC earlier this week.
“I’m discussing with my subordinates if a motu proprio investigation will be conducted on Senator Koko Pimentel’s supposed breach of COVID-19 protocols at the Makati Medical Center,” Ombudsman Samuel Martires said in a statement.
The law imposes a jail term of up to six months and may include a maximum fine of P50,000 for persons who will not “cooperate.”
“He could be prosecuted at this point, in fact to the extent that he could be detained for violation of the said law and the enhanced community quarantine protocols,” Quicho said.
Quicho said he and his legal team would also push for Pimentel’s disbarment, arguing that lawyers “should follow the law” but the senator exposed medical front-liners to the possibility of acquiring the new coronavirus.
In the meantime, Pimentel can be detained for violating what was supposed to be a community quarantine imposed by the Philippine government over Luzon to contain the spread of the virus, said Quicho.
“Humingi ang gobyerno ng emergency powers eh yung kapangyarihan pala ng pamahalaan na yun ay gagamitin lang sa mga ordinaryong mamamayan. Pagka mga VIP, pagka-nasa posisyon, parang nag-aabugado pa yung DOJ (The government asked for emergency powers. It turned out, those powers will be used on ordinary people. If you are a VIP or hold a position, it seems that the DOJ is even lawyering for you.),” said Quicho.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has said that “for a complaint to prosper, those who have personal knowledge of the incident should file the complaint.” Officials have not said they will launch an investigation of their own even without anyone filing a complaint.
“As I have said before, during abnormal times like these, when people are prone to commit mistakes or violations of the law, the DOJ will temper the rigor of the law with human compassion,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Wednesday night.
“But this is not to say that the DOJ will not act upon the filing of a proper complaint by any interested party,” Guevarra said.
Quicho said his move to go after Pimentel was not “payback” for the senator’s protracted committee investigations into the alleged corruption of then Vice President Jejomar Binay in 2014.
Binay saw the Pimentel-led hearings as a propaganda campaign to jeopardize his chances in the 2016 presidential election.
Quicho served as Binay’s spokesman.
“This has nothing to do with politics,” Quicho said. “It was really a spontaneous reaction on my part.”
Pimentel, on the other hand, has already apologized.
Pimentel showed symptoms of COVID-19 more than a week earlier and was tested on March 20. He said he was informed of his positive result at around 9 p.m. on March 24 when he was already at the hospital when he brought his wife.
Dr. Saturnino Javier, MMC’s medical director, however, said, as someone already classified as a person under investigation (PUI), Pimentel should have remained on a 14-day quarantine./Stacy Ang