Fiscals handling cases 'fairly, equitably': Guevarra

By Benjamin Pulta

January 22, 2021, 4:58 pm

<p>Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra. <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra. (File photo)

MANILA – State prosecutors are taking great lengths to ensure that the country's justice system is administered fairly, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Friday.

"I would like to assure the people that the DOJ (Department of Justice) is committed to administering 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 told newsmen.

Guevarra, however, declined to comment on the decision of prosecutors to clear Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III in charges of breaching quarantine rules.

"The resolution of the investigating prosecutor in the case of Senator Koko Pimentel may be the subject of an appeal to the office of the secretary. So it is not proper for me to make any comments on the resolution at this time." Guevarra said.

On Thursday, the DOJ junked charges filed by a lawyer against Pimentel arising from when he visited Makati Medical Center (MMC) where his wife was giving birth even as he tested positive for Covid-19.

The Office of the Prosecutor General said it has resolved to dismiss the complaint against Pimentel for violation of Section 9 (e) of Republic Act (RA) No. 11332 or the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of the Public Health Concern” for lack of probable cause.

Prosecutor Honey Delgado, the spokesperson of the Office of the Prosecutor General, ruled that Pimentel is not a public health authority and therefore, not obliged to report.

It also said assuming as a private individual, Pimentel was mandated to report his medical condition under RA No. 11332, there was nothing to report then when he went to the supermarket at the Bonifacio Global City on March 16, 2020 and at the MMC on March 24, 2020, since he only knew about his health condition 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,” prosecutors said.

They also said the complaint itself is fatally defective since the complainant, lawyer 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,” Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said.

The MMC earlier said Pimentel breached its infection and containment protocols when he went to the hospital with his wife who was about to give birth through cesarean section.

The hospital said Pimentel's visit "unduly exposed healthcare workers to possible infection" after it was found out that he tested positive for Covid-19 on March 25. (PNA)