DOJ defends embattled Vico Sotto

April 02, 2020

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday defended embattled Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto who was summoned by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to answer allegations that he violated the Bayanihan Act for allowing tricycles to operate despite a transportation ban.

Guevarra echoed opinions of some public officials that laws including Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act cannot be applied retroactively unless the offense is  continuing and its commission has not been stopped.

At the same time, Guevarra disclosed that the Justice Department has nothing to do with the NBI summon, but admitted though that President Duterte directed the NBI to go after local government officials who violated community quarantine rules.

“There is no such letter from the DOJ addressed specifically to Mayor Vico Sotto, but pursuant to the President’s instruction, the DOJ has directed the NBI and its regional offices, as well as all field offices of the national prosecution service, to monitor the actions of all LGU officials and investigate any violation or contravention of guidelines set by the IATF, such as on the unhampered flow of essential goods and movement of persons exempted from the lockdown. The President reiterated the same order during his address to the nation last Monday night,” Guevarra said.

The NBI, an attached agency of the DOJ, asked Sotto to explain why he should not be charged for violating the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act when he allowed tricycles to operate despite a transportation ban.

Sotto was asked to appear at the NBI main office in Manila on April 7 at 10 am.

Sotto earlier said he would allow tricycles to continue operating within Pasig for health workers and emergencies.

“Iniisip ko kung ano ang mangyayari sa atin kung pipigilan ang pagbiyahe ng tricycle sa Pasig. May libreng sakay tayo pero ‘di nito kakayanin ang libo-libong health worker at pasyente,” he said.

Mass public transportation was shut down as part of the enhanced community quarantine of Luzon that will last until April 13.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases maintained that tricycles will not be allowed to ply roads during the Luzon-wide quarantine because social distancing is difficult to enforce inside.

“Concerned talaga ang gobyerno dito sa paggamit ng tricycle dahil hindi namin lubos na makita or maintindihan paano mag-social distancing sa tricycle,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.

He insisted that local government units can make use of other vehicles, whether government-owned or borrowed from citizens, to transport frontline workers.