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Sotto: DILG, not DOJ, in charge of local officials

Hananeel Bordey

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In case anybody needs to be reminded, it is the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) that has jurisdiction over erring local government officials, not the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“If a local official has not violated any law, the DILG is the Dept that has jurisdiction over him. Not the DOJ! #&%@₱!?!” tweeted Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

Sotto’s post came after his nephew, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, was asked by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to explain an alleged violation of the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act.

The NBI is an attached agency of the Justice Department. “DOJ under ang NBI, if there is no law violated bakit mo papatawag ang mayor? Again, laws detrimental are not retroactive. Therefore, ang may jurisdiction sa mga local officials ay DILG,” Sotto, who authored the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act, said in a text message to reporters.

The Pasig mayor’s perceived violation was allowing tricycles to ply his city as service vehicles of frontliners.  He immediately ordered a stop when reminded by officials, particularly the DILG, that the move does not guarantee social distancing which is a tool to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The tricycle use and its eventual stoppage happened even before Congress convened for a special session to pass the Bayanihan bill.

The senator also reminded the NBI to refrain from releasing press statements if it is not certain on its position. “Kung hindi rin lang napag-aralan mabuti, iwas muna sa press release at nakakaabala lang sa dapat focus on fighting the scourge of the world, COVID-19,” Sotto said.

The Senate chief, however, said Senator Aquilino Pimentel III’s case was a “different” one from the Pasig mayor’s situation.

NBI also summoned Pimentel for an alleged breach of quarantine protocols after he accompanied his wife, who was about to give birth that time, to Makati Medical Center despite having symptoms of COVID-19.

On Wednesday afternoon, NBI issued letters to the Pasig mayor, Pimentel and four other officials for alleged violation of provisions of the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act.

Under the Section 6(a) of the said law, LGU officials disobeying national government policies against COVID-19 may be penalized and slapped with a two-month imprisonment and/or a fine of P10,000 to P1 million. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra already explained that the penal provisions of any law “cannot be applied retroactively unless the commission of the violation has not been stopped.”

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