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Guevarra: Fair justice is for everyone

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday assured the public that the Justice Department remains committed in dispensing justice fairly.

Guevarra issued the statement in response to public furor over the DOJ’s dismissal of the quarantine breach case filed against Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III.

I would like to assure the people that the DOJ is committed to administer our criminal justice system as fairly and equitably as possible.

Please note that a large number of people apprehended by law enforcement officers during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic due to various quarantine violations were subsequently released and their cases dismissed by DOJ inquest prosecutors,” Guevarra said in a message.

Last Thursday, the DOJ junked for lack of probable cause the case filed against Pimentel for alleged violation of quarantine protocol for bringing his wife to a hospital despite showing symptoms of COVID-19

In a 19-page resolution, the DOJ dismissed the case (Section 9[e] of R.A. No. 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of the Public Health Concern) on the following grounds:

(1) Senator Koko Pimentel is not a public health authority (i.e. he is not the DOH, the RITM, the Epidemiology Bureau), therefore, not obliged to report under R.A. No. 11332. The mandatory reporting under R.A. No. 11332 was meant for public health authorities only;

(2) Assuming that as a private individual he was mandated to report his medical condition under R.A. No. 11332, there was nothing to report then when he went to S&R BGC on 16 March 2020 or at MMC (Makati Medical Center) hospital on 24 March 2020 for Senator Koko Pimentel only knew or learned about his condition of being positive for COVID-19 on the same day – 24 March 2020, while he was already at the premises of the hospital.

There is no “non-cooperation” under Section 9(e) of R.A. No. 11332 as Senator Koko Pimentel was deemed to have “cooperated” when he left the hospital premises immediately after receiving the information about his medical condition, and lastly;

(3) The complaint itself is fatally defective. Complainant Atty. (Rico) Quicho was not the proper party to file the instant complaint, and the pieces of evidence he presented were all hearsay as they were based only on news reports.

News reports, being hearsay evidence, cannot be relied upon as proof of the allegations in the complaint, or as proof of the truth, because they were merely learned, read or heard from others.

Pimentel was accused of violating quarantine protocols when he brought his pregnant wife to the Makati Medical Center last March despite showing symptoms for COVID-19. He later tested positive for the deadly infection but eventually recovered.