Duque denies intervening for Pimentel's wife to be admitted at Makati Med

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 26) — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday denied rumors that he pressured Makati Medical Center to admit Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III’s wife who was about to give birth.

Sa kumakalat na balita ukol sa pagtawag ng inyong lingkod sa Makati Medical Center para tulungan o bigyang pabor ang sinuman, ito po ay walang katotohanan. Hindi po ako tumawag sa Makati Medical Center para makiusap na kanilang tanggapin sa kanilang ospital ang asawa ni Senator Pimentel,” Duque said in a press briefing.

[Translation: There is no truth to the rumors circulating that I called Makati Medical Center to help or favor anyone. I didn't call Makati Medical Center to plead to them to admit Senator Pimentel’s wife.]

Duque also said the Health Department agrees with Makati Medical Center in saying that Pimentel’s decision to accompany his wife, Kathryna, to give birth despite having been tested for COVID-19 is a breach of quarantine protocols.

While at the hospital, the senator said he found out through a call that he is positive for COVID-19.

Hindi dapat nangyari ito," Duque said. "Susundan po natin ang yapak ng mga lead agencies na inatasan upang panatilihin ang peace and order kasama na ang pag-handle ng violations sa quarantine protocol."

[Translation: This shouldn’t have happened. We will follow our lead agencies tasked to maintain peace and order, including handling violations in quarantine protocol.]

Malacañang is keeping a hands-off approach on the matter, saying there is still a need to determine the facts surrounding the alleged breach of quarantine procedures by officials and if a case has to be filed against them.

However, the palace said quarantine protocols apply equally to all, “regardless of their socio-political status.”

“There are no exemptions for any person on these health protocols," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement. "Those holding high positions in the government are enjoined to set an example to their constituents by strictly observing them."

“Any transgressor therefore must be dealt with in accordance with law," Panelo added.

#KokoKulong

Pimentel drew flak for his trip to the hospital with his wife, with some calling for his resignation and for charges to be pressed against him.

Following his visit to Makati Medical Center, at least two health workers had to be quarantined, while the entire delivery room complex had to be disinfected.

He had also gone to members-only supermarket S&R in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig six days before he found out that he is positive for COVID-19. This was also two days after he began to experience body pain.

A number of employees at that S&R branch are now on quarantine, while the premises had to be disinfected.

The hashtag #KokoKulong landed on the top trending topics on Twitter in the Philippines on Thursday.

Meanwhile, an online petition for Pimentel to be charged for supposedly violating the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act and the Quarantine Act has garnered over 92,000 signatures as of this writing.

University of the Philippines law professor John Molo said Pimentel can face a string of charges and penalties.

Among the possible penalties are disbarment and suspension or expulsion from the Senate for unparliamentary behavior.

Molo said Pimentel may also be fined up to ₱50,000 or face a jail term of one to six months for failing to disclose that he is suspected of having COVID-19.

For violating the enhanced community quarantine, Molo said Pimentel can be fined between ₱10,000 and ₱50,000 or jailed for up to a year.

Molo added that Pimentel could also be sued for criminal negligence, disobedience to agents of a person in authority, graft and corruption and for damages.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they “will temper the rigor of the law with human compassion” as people are prone to commit violations“ during abnormal times like these.”

“But this is not to say that the DOJ (Department of Justice) will not act upon the filing of a proper complaint by any interested party,” Guevarra said.