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DoJ clears Duterte ally accused of violating quarantine restrictions

GOVERNMENT prosecutors have dismissed a complaint against an administration senator accused of violating lockdown rules amid a coronavirus pandemic.

In a 19-page order, the Department of Justice (DoJ) said Senator Aquilino L. Pimentel III did not violate the law when he entered a private hospital in March without notifying authorities that he had the coronavirus.

The lawmaker, a close ally of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, was not obliged to report his illness because he is not a public health official, DoJ said.

The law mandating reporting of certain diseases only applies to officials under the Health department and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and Epidemiology Bureau, it added.

Mr. Pimentel also did not violate the “noncooperation” clause of the law since he had been unaware of his test results when he accompanied his pregnant wife to the hospital, prosecutors said.

The senator learned about his infection while he was at the Makati Medical Center with his wife Kathryna, who was about to give birth to their child.

Hospital management had called Mr. Pimentel reckless and irresponsible for endangering the health of its staff and adding to the burden of the hospital because it had to quarantine several staff members who had contact with him.

“Senator Koko Pimentel only knew or learned about his condition of being positive for COVID-19 on the same day — March 24, 2020, while he was already at the premises of the hospital,” DoJ said.

Prosecutors also said lawyer Rico Quicho did not have the personality to file the complaint, which was based on news reports deemed “hearsay evidence.”

Mr. Pimentel on Thursday said the DoJ ruling was “unassailable and correct.” “The complaint criminally charged me for violation of non-penal DoH issuances which are not even addressed to me,” he told reporters in a Viber group message.

“How can something noncriminal all of a sudden become criminal when you are not even expected to be knowledgeable or an expert about their contents?” — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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