Why just now? Justice Dep’t reopens probe into Koko Pimentel’s quarantine breach

<i>Photo: Koko Pimentel / FB</i>
Photo: Koko Pimentel / FB

The Department of Justice has reopened its investigation into Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III’s alleged quarantine breach in March, after receiving additional documents from the Makati Medical Center.

In a Sept. 9 order released to the media today, Assistant State Prosecutor Wendell Bendoval said he received a copy of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) memo which included incident reports from the Makati hospital about the event on March 24, when Pimentel escorted his pregnant wife to the hospital despite undergoing a coronavirus swab test four days prior.

Read: #KokoKulong: Filipinos want Pimentel arrested for exposing staff at Makati hospital to COVID-19

“In view of the foregoing and in line with the policy of admitting all evidence that could assist in the judicious resolution of complaints, the preliminary investigation of this case is hereby reopened,” Assistant State Prosecutor Wendell Bendoval said in the order.

It’s unclear why it took several months for the hospital’s incident report to reach NBI, and no details of the report have been disclosed to the media.

Lawyer Rico Quicho filed a complaint against Pimentel for allegedly violating Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, which punishes “non-cooperative persons” who do not report that they are ill of serious diseases to authorities with up to PHP50,000 (US$1,029) in fines and up to six months jail time.

Read: Political party won’t sanction Pimentel for COVID-19 quarantine breach, but city lawyers to sue

Makati Medical Center earlier issued a strongly-worded statement against Pimentel, where they called him “irresponsible and reckless.” The hospital said that Pimentel potentially exposed their employees as well as patients to the virus.

Pimentel said previously that he was informed that he tested positive for the coronavirus while he was at the hospital, and had left immediately. He also issued a somewhat half-hearted apology.

In July, the Department of Health endorsed Quicho’s complaint to the Justice Department and acknowledged that Pimentel breached his quarantine. Under the department’s guidelines, a person under investigation for COVID-19 is required to self isolate for 14 days to prevent the spread of the virus.

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