Junking of quarantine breach case vs. Pimentel sends 'wrong signal,' says complainant

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 21)— The lawyer who filed the complaint against Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III for alleged quarantine breach in March 2020 on Friday questioned the decision of Department of Justice prosecutors to drop the case, saying it sends the wrong signal to the public.

"But they’re sending a very wrong signal to our public...We are still in the middle of a pandemic and then there's this decision stating that you could go out, you could just breach protocol," Atty. Rico Quicho told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"They really dragged this complaint, they tried to sweep it under the rug. But you know what at the end of the day, justice must always prevail - and they let Koko Pimentel get away with the crime," he added.

The DOJ said Thursday prosecutors decided to dismiss the complaint against Pimentel for alleged violation of Section 9(e) of R.A. No. 11332 or the "Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of the Public Health Concern."

Pimentel, after undergoing a COVID-19 test in March, went to the Makati Medical Center with his wife Kathryna, who was about to give birth. He was supposed to be under strict home quarantine at the time, after he got exposed to positive cases.

He was also reported to have gone shopping at a big supermarket.

The DOJ's Office of the Prosecutor General said the evidence was weak to establish a case.

The 19-page resolution included an argument that since Pimentel is not a public health authority, he is not covered by the R.A. No. 11332.

It also stated that "there was nothing to report then when he went to S&R BGC on 16 March 2020 or at MMC 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."

The Justice Department stressed the complaint against Pimentel was "fatally defective" as the pieces of evidence presented were based on news reports, considered as hearsay evidence.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra declined to comment on the case at this time, saying the decision may still be appealed to his office for review. But he assured the public that the agency is committed to administer the criminal justice system "as fairly and equitably as possible."

CNN Philippines is trying to get Pimentel's comment on the statement of Quicho.