Ombudsman mulls probe into Pimentel's quarantine breach

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2020 03:20 PM

MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman said Thursday it will deliberate on whether or not to investigate Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel's alleged violation of his quarantine for the novel coronavirus when he visited a Makati hospital. 

Ombudsman Samuel Martires said he will "discuss today" with other agency officials a possible motu propio investigation into the incident, which does not require any formal complaint to be filed first against Pimentel.

Pimentel, a former Senate President, accompanied his pregnant wife to the Makati Medical Center on Wednesday, while he was still waiting for the results of his COVID-19 screening, for which he eventually tested positive.

The lawmaker initially denied that he violated his quarantine. He later apologized, saying he "never intended to breach any protocol" and later realized that he "unnecessarily caused additional anguish, concern to to the courageous healthcare workers who we all depend." 

His apology came a day after the MMC rebuked him for exposing its workers to possible infection, prompting their own quarantine and further depleting "the dwindling workforce of the hospital." 

Apart from visiting the MMC, Pimentel said in a separate television interview that he recently attended two birthday parties and a meeting.

S&R supermarket on Thursday said Pimentel also shopped for groceries at its branch in Bonifacio Global City Taguig on March 16, prompting a quarantine of store clerks who were exposed to him. 

The justice department said Wednesday there were no grounds yet to investigate Pimentel, despite public backlash over his alleged abuse of position. 

The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, meanwhile, does not plan to investigate Pimentel because it has "no jurisdiction" over officials who are not presidential appointees, said its commissioner, Manny Luna. 

A group of lawyers, though, is preparing criminal charges, including a disbarment case, against Pimentel over the incident, with one of them saying that "as a lawmaker, he should not be a lawbreaker."

Atty. Rico Quicho said Pimentel violated the law on "mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases and health events of public health concern," which carries the penalty of a jail term of up to 6 months and may include a maximum fine of P50,000 for persons.

Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Sonny Angara also tested positive for COVID-19. Some of their colleagues earlier went on voluntary quarantine after a guest at a March 5 Senate hearing was found positive for the respiratory disease. 

The Philippines has recorded over 600 coronavirus cases, 2 weeks into a Luzon-wide quarantine that cooped up some 50 million people in their homes to contain the spread of the pandemic. 

- - With a report from Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News