DOH: Koko breached quar­an­tine pro­to­cols

Pimentel also shopped at S&R, at­tended 2 par­ties 22 MMC staff on quar­an­tine; DOJ cool to fil­ing raps

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By CHRISTINA MEN­DEZ

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III breached quar­an­tine pro­to­cols when he showed up at the Makati Med­i­cal Cen­ter (MMC) on March 24 de­spite be­ing aware that he might be in­fected with the coro­n­avirus dis­ease 2019 or COVID-19, Health Secretary Fran­cisco Duque III said yes­ter­day, as he vowed no spe­cial treat­ment for politi­cians.

“We will co­or­di­nate with the agen­cies,” Duque said at a press brief­ing when asked what steps would be taken against Pimentel.

Pimentel also went to the BGC branch of S&R when he was sup­posed to be on home quar­an­tine and ad­mit­ted at­tend­ing two birth­day par­ties.

Jus­tice Secretary Me­nardo Gue­varra ap­peared cool to in­dict­ing

Pimentel for what the MMC de­cried as his “ir­re­spon­si­ble and reck­less ac­tions,” call­ing for “com­pas­sion” dur­ing the cri­sis.

Pimentel apol­o­gized to the MMC yes­ter­day for the “un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent.”

MMC med­i­cal direc­tor Saturnino Javier said “we take note of the apology” for the quar­an­tine breach, but in an in­ter­view yes­ter­day, he said he could not speak for in­di­vid­ual mem­bers of their staff on whether the apology would be ac­cepted.

Up to 22 MMC per­son­nel are on home quar­an­tine be­cause of Pimentel’s visit.

Duque de­nied re­ports that he called up the MMC to tell its

From Page 1 man­age­ment to ad­mit Pimentel’s wife Kath­eryna who was ex­pect­ing to de­liver her baby. Javier con­firmed that there was no such call.

Duque said lab­o­ra­to­ries at hos­pi­tals were un­der strict in­struc­tions to ob­serve the “first in first out pol­icy” in pro­cess­ing spec­i­mens and to has­ten the pro­cess­ing of the results so that those test­ing neg­a­tive could be dis­charged im­me­di­ately from the hospi­tal.

As this de­vel­oped, a group of lawyers bared plans to file charges against Pimentel for breach of quar­an­tine pro­to­cols.

Lawyer Rico Qui­cho said the se­na­tor should have kept in mind the in­ter­est of the gen­eral pub­lic when he de­cided to go to the hospi­tal de­spite be­ing tagged as a per­son un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion (PUI) for COVID-19.

“We can­not let such in­ep­ti­tude into po­si­tions of power. We will rely on the full force of law – we are look­ing into crim­i­nal, civil, ad­min­is­tra­tive charges. Not only to make him ac­count­able, but also to set an ex­am­ple,” Qui­cho said in a state­ment sent to Com­pas­sion“We con­demn the self­ish ac­tions of the se­na­tor and we are committed to seek­ing ac­count­abil­ity,” he added.

“Hav­ing chil­dren my­self, I un­der­stand the hu­man­ity in want­ing the best for his wife and baby, but as a lawyer and a se­na­tor, he should have had the com­mon sense to pri­or­i­tize the coun­try’s welfare,” said Qui­cho, who was part of the de­fense team of the late Chief Jus­tice Renato Corona dur­ing his im­peach­ment trial in 2011.

While it is ex­pected that he was con­cerned for the welfare of his wife and their baby, Qui­cho said it would have been proper if Pimentel re­garded also the safety of the med­i­cal staff he ex­posed to danger for dis­re­gard­ing the pro­to­cols set by the Department of Health.

“But as a father, more so a pub­lic ser­vant, he should also know the virtue in sac­ri­fice, lalo na’t maram­ing buhay ang nadamay at maram­ing front­lin­ers ang na-ex­pose (es­pe­cially since many lives were af­fected and many front­lin­ers were ex­posed). His self­ish act led to the quar­an­tine of a whole department and greatly hand­i­capped crit­i­cal med­i­cal ser­vices,” Qui­cho said.

He ar­gued that Pimentel may have vi­o­lated pub­lic trust, which is the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple that ev­ery pub­lic of­fi­cial swears to uphold.

Qui­cho cited Art. XI, Sec. 1 of the 1987 Con­sti­tu­tion, which pro­vides that “pub­lic office is a pub­lic trust.”

“Maybe the se­na­tor would find value in learn­ing about sac­ri­fice from our front­lin­ers risk­ing their lives and the daily wage earn­ers who have no choice but to stay at home,” he added.

With at least nine doc­tors suc­cumb­ing to the virus, Qui­cho said the se­na­tor’s self­ish ac­tions en­dan­gered the safety of badly needed med­i­cal staff.

“The pan­demic de­mands that we re­visit our definition of pa­tri­o­tism be­cause our de­vo­tion to and vig­or­ous sup­port for pub­lic health would trans­late to de­vo­tion to and vig­or­ous sup­port for our families. If we pro­tect our front­lin­ers and each other from the virus, we pro­tect our families too,” he said.

“The least we can ex­pect from the se­na­tor is hon­esty and fidelity. He is in no way ‘es­sen­tial’ to the sit­u­a­tion at hand nor is his con­cern press­ing and life-threat­en­ing enough to merit his dis­play of wan­ton dis­re­gard for the well-be­ing of oth­ers,” Qui­cho said.

Qui­cho also noted the way the mat­ter is assessed by the

Department of Jus­tice (DOJ), which seemed to sweep Pimentel’s ac­tions un­der the rug.

“Do we look to the DOJ who in­ter­prets the law harshly and rig­or­ously against us nor­mal cit­i­zens but asks that we ‘tem­per the rigor of the law with hu­man com­pas­sion’ when it comes to a se­na­tor?” he said.

“Our in­dig­na­tion will not just pass. Ac­count­abil­ity does not take a back seat dahil lang may (just be­cause there is a) pan­demic. May this also serve as a needed re­minder that the rule of law is su­pe­rior to the rule of any pub­lic of­fi­cial,” Qui­cho said.

‘Not his fault’

Re­act­ing to Pimentel’s ac­tion, Gue­varra said, “Dur­ing ab­nor­mal times like these, when peo­ple are prone to com­mit mis­takes or vi­o­la­tions of the law, the DOJ will tem­per the rigor of the law with hu­man com­pas­sion.”

“But this is not to say that the DOJ will not act upon the fil­ing of a proper com­plaint by any in­ter­ested party,” he added.

Mala­cañang, for its part, said no one will be ex­empted from the law af­ter various sec­tors called for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Pimentel.

“The equal pro­tec­tion clause of the Con­sti­tu­tion im­poses equal treat­ment to all. Any trans­gres­sor there­fore must be dealt with in ac­cor­dance with law,” pres­i­den­tial spokesman and chief pres­i­den­tial le­gal ad­viser Sal­vador Panelo said yes­ter­day.

But in an in­ter­view with a lo­cal pa­per, Panelo said “it’s not his (Pimentel) fault.”

“There are no ex­emp­tions for any per­son on these health pro­to­cols. Those hold­ing high po­si­tions in the govern­ment are en­joined to set an ex­am­ple to their con­stituents by strictly ob­serv­ing them,” he added.

Ap­peal­ing for un­der­stand­ing and com­pas­sion, Pimentel apol­o­gized to the man­age­ment and staff of the MMC for go­ing to the hospi­tal premises and ac­com­pa­ny­ing his ex­pec­tant wife de­spite be­ing on home quar­an­tine for COVID-19.

Pimentel said he went to the MMC to ac­com­pany his wife at around 6 to 7 pm on March 24, or hours be­fore her sched­uled de­liv­ery by Ce­sarean sec­tion.

“Once again, I would like to sin­cerely and pro­foundly apol­o­gize to the man­age­ment and staff of the Makati Med­i­cal Cen­ter for this un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent. I never in­tended to do any harm to any­one,” Pimentel said in a state­ment.

“I shall be open to any com­mu­ni­ca­tion the MMC would want to have with me about this. I just ask for ev­ery­one’s un­der­stand­ing and com­pas­sion and al­low me first to re­cover from COVID-19,” said the se­na­tor.

Pimentel main­tained that no doc­tor or­dered his COVID test­ing done on March 20. He got the re­sult on Tuesday, March 24, the same day he showed up at the MMC. He was sup­posed to have been on home quar­an­tine since March 14.

“It was my own ini­tia­tive, as an ex­pec­tant father, af­ter learn­ing that my other col­leagues had them­selves tested and out of pre­cau­tion be­cause I was liv­ing with a preg­nant wife who was near­ing the time of child­birth. Never did I have per­sis­tent cough and per­sis­tent fever,” he said.

“I apol­o­gize to MMC for be­ing in their hospi­tal in the evening of March 24, 2020, which they deemed to be a breach of their safety/con­tain­ment pro­to­cols,” he added.

Mean­while, S&R, a mem­ber­ship shop­ping club also con­firmed that Pimentel was at its branch in Boni­fa­cio Global City last March 16.

GEREMY PIN­TOLO

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, shown in photo dur­ing a re­cent Se­nate hear­ing, apol­o­gized to the Makati Med­i­cal Cen­ter yes­ter­day. The MMC head said he could not speak for their in­di­vid­ual mem­bers on whether the apology would be ac­cepted.

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