Lawyer files complaint vs Sen. Pimentel over quarantine breach

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 6) — Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III is facing a complaint for violating COVID-19 quarantine protocols.

Former University of Makati law dean lawyer Rico Quicho filed the complaint before the Department of Justice on Monday.

Pimentel, who tested positive for the virus, drew outrage for visiting the Makati Medical Center on March 24 to accompany his wife Kathryna who was about to give birth. The lawmaker, who was exhibiting flu-like symptoms, was supposed to be under strict home quarantine after his exposure to positive cases. His test results later confirmed that he did contract the disease and potentially exposed a number of health workers at the hospital and staff at members-only supermarket S&R.

Quicho said the senator violated laws related to nondisclosure of his health status and violation of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine. He added the petition on change.org seeking to charge Pimentel and remove him from the Senate has garnered 200,000 online signatures.

"As a lawyer and advocate of the rule of law, I cannot in good conscience allow the reckless actions of Senator Koko Pimentel to be brushed aside so easily. He blatantly violated laws, which put the lives and health of frontliners and even ordinary citizens at grave risk," Quicho said.

Legal experts said Pimentel may 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, he can be fined between ₱10,000 and ₱50,000 or jailed for up to a year.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the department will immediately schedule the preliminary investigation at a proper time as there is still enhanced community quarantine enforced over Luzon. He vowed to be impartial.

"We assure everyone that the Justice Department will apply the law fairly and uniformly, regardless of the status of the respondent, with due respect at all times to the rights of the respondent. This investigation is without prejudice to the separate probe that the national bureau of investigation has commenced," he said in a statement.

Guevarra added the investigation will be separate from the probe the National Bureau of Investigation is conducting.

Pimentel apologized for his actions, saying his trip to the hospital was “essential.”