MANILA - The law has to be applied equally, even to government executives who could be caught violating COVID-19 health protocols, Cabinet Sec. Karlo Nograles said Thursday.
Public officials are held "to a higher level of accountability," he said as at least 2 high-ranking officers of the administration recently contracted the coronavirus disease.
"We try as much as possible to enforce the law as equally as we can. I think the message is dapat equal naman treatment of the law d'yan. So anong position ka man, whether you’re in public or private service, dapat the law knows no positions or anything like that. It has to be applied equally," he told ANC's Headstart.
"So kung may mahuhuling public official, then it has to be applied equally," he said.
(We try as much as possible to enforce the law as equally as we can. I think the message is there has to be equal treatment of the law there. No matter your position, whether you're in public or private service, the law should know no positions or anything like that. It has to be applied equally. So if a public official will be caught, then it has to be applied equally.)
Last week, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas said he tested positive for the coronavirus. On Monday, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque also said he has COVID-19.
Sinas was previously involved in a controversy after celebrating his birthday with a "mañanita" or pre-dawn serenade at the height of a strict lockdown in May while he was still Metro Manila police chief. He was later promoted to the top position in the police ranks.
Roque, meanwhile, was also criticized for visiting a resort and swimming with dolphins in Subic, Zambales in July. He and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo also received backlash after singing in public despite health authorities' advise against it to prevent the spread of the infection. He was also seen participating in a mass gathering in Cebu last December.
Nograles, also co-chairperson of the inter-agency task force (IATF) against COVID-19, said public officials are accountable to the Civil Service Commission and other laws, where they can be made liable for civil, criminal, and administrative complaints. They can also face charges from the Ombudsman for graft cases, he said.
"Lahat yan, the measures, the mechanism is there in place...Anybody can file a case against any public official they feel is breaking the law or not following protocols," he said.
Nograles was also asked in the interview about what exactly are the rules about isolation and quarantine facilities, after an online article alleged Roque was staying at a posh hotel in Pasay City. The cabinet secretary said he personally does not know where Roque is currently staying.
"Siguro (Maybe) it’s best that we give him the opportunity to respond because personally I don’t know where he is currently isolated right now," he said.
About a year since the country was placed on lockdown, the Philippines on Wednesday reported 4,387 new COVID-19 cases, with the total number of infections now at 635,698. It was the sixth straight day that the recorded addition was more than 4,000.