NBI asks Vico Sotto to explain 'violation' of quarantine policy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 1) — The National Bureau of Investigation has summoned Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto to explain his supposed violation of the national government's policy on the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.

NBI Spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin told CNN Philippines in a text message that they have sent Sotto a letter requiring him to appear at their office on April 7. He said the mayor has to respond to allegations that he violated Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act which was recently passed to address the coronavirus disease crisis.

If Sotto fails to show up, "then we proceed with the investigation," Lavin said, adding that the NBI's Anti-Graft Division is handling it.

Sotto previously earned the ire of the Department of the Interior and Local Government in March when he ordered the limited mobilization of tricycles in the city to help bring health workers and patients with urgent needs to hospitals. This is prohibited under the enhanced community quarantine guidelines, which include the suspension of mass transport. Sotto has since complied with the ban.

In a televised media briefing, Sotto confirmed receiving a letter from the NBI. He said it did not specify the violation he supposedly committed.

"Nakasulat lang, in parentheses pa, ibig sabihin ng e.g. di ba, halimbawa, example, e.g. continuous tricyle operation," Sotto said.

"In the first place hindi totoo yun, noong sinabi nilang tigil tumigil kami," he added.

[Translation: What was written was, in parentheses, meaning for example, continuous tricycle operation. In the first place, that's not true. When they asked us to stop, we stopped.]

Sotto said that when the national government turned down his request to allow some tricycles to operate for the sake of health workers, he immediately complied. He added that even if he was airing his own opinion, the city government has always complied with national government directives.

Sotto also pointed out that the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act was only enacted on March 24, days after the tricycle issue.

When asked if the law has a retroactive effect to apply on Sotto's case, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said "penal provisions of any law are not applied retroactively unless the offense is a continuing one and its commission has not been stopped."

He added that there's no letter from the Department of Justice "addressed specifically to Mayor Vico Sotto," but it asked the NBI to monitor all actions of local government units and investigate any violations to the guidelines set by the inter-agency task force.

Lavin also clarified that the NBI is not singling Sotto out as it also invited the barangay chairman of Talon Uno, Las Piñas.

Meanwhile, Sotto said the summons was "extra work, extra hassle," but it will not stop him from doing his job during the crisis.