DOJ reopens probe into Koko Pimentel’s quarantine breach

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 10 2020 11:00 AM

Sen. Koko Pimentel listens as Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa delivers a privilege speech Wednesday, July 29, 2020, batting for the reinstatement of death penalty in the country. Albert Calvelo, Senate PRIB

MANILA – Five months after the supposed quarantine breach of Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has reopened its investigation after receiving additional documents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

In an order issued Wednesday, Assistant State Prosecutor Wendell Bendoval said he received on September 4 a copy of the NBI memorandum dated August 24 which includes incident reports from the Makati Medical Center regarding the March 24 incident where Pimentel accompanied his pregnant wife to the hospital despite undergoing testing for COVID-19 on March 20.

Pimentel said he was informed he tested positive for the coronavirus while at the hospital and left immediately.

A complaint for violation of Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act and 3 Department of Health (DOH) issuances were filed before the DOJ in April by lawyer Rico Quicho.

RA 11332 punishes non-cooperation from persons with notifiable diseases or persons or entities who should report notifiable diseases.

On July 24, Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said the complaint has been submitted for resolution.

But Bendoval said there is a need to reopen the preliminary investigation “in line with the policy of admitting all evidence that could assist in the judicious resolution of complaints.”

No details were provided regarding the contents of the incident reports.

But Pimentel’s visit to the hospital prompted a strong statement from the Dr. Saturnino Javier, medical director of MakatiMed who called his actions “irresponsible and reckless.”

The DOH also confirmed Pimentel broke quarantine protocols.

The senator has apologized for his actions. In his defense, he said he did not violate any quarantine protocol because he was not a person under investigation at the time he visited MakatiMed but was only a VIP who underwent testing.

Reacting to news about the reopening of the probe, Quicho on Facebook thanked MakatiMed “for its courage to ferret out the truth.”

“VIP Koko no way out of this mess but to man up. DOJ, your move,” he said.

“The people deserve to know the truth now. Justice delayed is justice denied,” he added.

Quicho had long complained about delays in the probe, which has been reset several times due to the senator asking for more time to file his counter-affidavit.

In contrast, other RA 11332 cases have immediately been filed in court with some cases in Bulacan, Manila and Cebu junked after the court ruled the law could not be used as basis to arrest individuals holding protest actions or organizing a relief mission without a quarantine pass.