MARCH 26, 2020 – The government’s anti-corruption agency on Thursday said its officials are set to discuss a possible investigation into a senator’s alleged violation of quarantine protocols for the coronavirus disease.
Former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III is currently under fire for bringing his wife to the Makati Medical Center (MMC) on Tuesday, while waiting for the results of his COVID-19 test that later turned out positive.
“[I] will discuss today [the matter] with other officials,” Ombudsman Samuel Martires said in a text message to reporters.
Under Republic Act. 6770, the Ombudsman has the power to conduct a motu propio investigation, which requires no formal complaints to be filed against the public official facing scrutiny.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), meanwhile, said it will only launch an investigation if a formal complaint has already been filed before it.
“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. “But this is not to say that the DOJ will not act upon the filing of a proper complaint by any interested party.”
Pimentel initially insisted that he did not know he was infected with the highly-contagious virus when he accompanied his wife to the MMC for possible delivery of their first child.
But he later apologized for his actions after the MMC called him out for putting its health workers at risk. Two hospital staff were placed under quarantine.
Before the MMC incident, the senator was confirmed to also have shopped for groceries at a branch of the S&R supermarket in Bonifacio Global City, four days before his test sample was taken on March 20.
“S&R employees who were in contact with the senator were already placed in quarantine. S&R BGC also took extra disinfetion steps,” the company said.
Aside from Pimentel, ACT-CIS partylist Eric Yap is also facing a probe for a potential security breach after attending a meeting at the presidential palace on March 21.
Yap, the head of the lower house panel on appropriations, had his samples taken on March 15 which later turned out positive.
The Duterte administration has restricted public movement by placing the mainland of Luzon under an enhanced quarantine to prevent the rapid spread of the virus.
According to the DOJ, violators may face jail time and penalties under the the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, which punishes people who refuse to cooperate with authorities.
Military and police personnel have also been directed to man checkpoints and ensure that protocols are being followed. (Karen Macalalad/JMF)
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