MANILA, Philippines — An official of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Thursday denied that the agency is meddling in politics when it orders the summon on Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, and Senator Aquilino Pimentel III for their alleged infractions of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) being imposed by the national government to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Speaking over ABS-CBN’s News Channel, NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin said that contrary to allegations of engaging in politics, the NBI was just doing its mandate under the newly-enacted Bayanihan to Heal as One law to ensure order in time of crisis.
“Ang NBI naman hindi namumulitika. Hindi kami namulitika kahit kailan (The NBI never meddled with politics),” NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
Sotto was being asked to explain alleged violations of the provisions of the Bayanihan law in allowing tricycles to operate during the ECQ, while Pimentel allegedly breaching quarantine protocols knowing fully well that he had been exposed to someone who turned positive for COVID-19.
Aside from Sotto and Pimentel, Lavin said the agency is also looking at other alleged violations by other barangays or local governments units in Cebu, Masbate, and Las Piñas, as well as the protest by residents of Sitio San Roque in Barangay Bagong Pag-asa, Quezon City on Wednesday.
He further said the agency has also been busy in operating against profiteering and hoarding of medical supplies and the spread of disinformation about the virus.
“We’re not only looking at Pasig City. I think this is the misconception. We are looking at other areas, (too),” he said.
Not being singled out
Lavin likewise dismissed claims that the decision to summon Pimentel was just an afterthought after the agency drew flak over prioritizing the alleged violation of Sotto over the senator’s violation of his home quarantine while awaiting the result of his coronavirus test.
Lavin reiterated that the issue concerning Sotto was just being “politicized” and “sensationalized.”
“It’s well within the powers of the agency. Hindi lang naman ito kay Mayor Sotto. Medyo na-politicize lang ito, nasensationalize, ‘yung kay Mayor Sotto (This is not just about Mayor Sotto. The issue concerning him was just somehow politicized and sensationalized),” he said.
READ: Vico Sotto says it was NBI that ‘politicized’ alleged violation of Bayanihan Act
Lavin explained that its move on Sotto is part of the call of President Rodrigo Duterte for all government agencies to come together in fighting the coronavirus disease pandemic.
In its summons, the NBI enjoined Sotto to explain why he should not be charged under Section 6A of the Bayanihan Act, which penalizes officials of local governments units disobeying national government policies or directives in imposing the quarantine order.
The bureau further cited the “continuous tricycle operations” in the city despite the ban for public transport ordered by the national government.
Sotto earlier allowed the operations of tricycles in Pasig for those exempted to the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, citing the need for access to transportation by health workers and those needing urgent medical attention.
But after the Department of the Interior and Local Government reiterated the transport ban, Sotto on March 19 said he would comply with the order.
Sotto further noted that the Bayanihan law was signed on March 24, already several days since he started complying with the trike ban.
The Department of Justice, which has jurisdiction over the NBI, said that penal provisions under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act cannot be applied retroactively.
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