MANILA – The interior department, not the justice ministry, has jurisdiction over local government officials accused of violating the law, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Thursday.
The Senate leader issued the statement after the National Bureau of Investigation, an agency under the Department of Justice, asked his nephew, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto to explain an alleged violation to coronavirus quarantine rules.
"If a local official has violated any law, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is the department that has jurisdiction over him. Not the Department of Justice (DOJ)!" Sen. Sotto said in a tweet.
"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," he said in a separate message to reporters.
(They should refrain from releasing press releases if they did not study the issue well because it just diverts the focus from fighting the scourge of the world, which is COVID-19.)
The young Sotto, a first term mayor who toppled a dynasty in elections last year, pushed for tricycles to ferry medical workers. The Luzon lockdown banned public transport.
The elder Sotto said his Senate colleague who was also summoned by the NBI, Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, could be a "different" case.
Pimentel was asked to explain why he accompanied his pregnant wife to the Makati Medical Center despite experiencing some COVID-19 symptoms, violating quarantine procedures. He later tested positive.
The NBI against Mayor Sotto, Pimentel and 4 other officials were based on a provision in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act that allows the executive branch to penalize those who would violate the government's quarantine policies.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said that penal provisions under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act could be applied retroactively.
"Penal provisions of any law are not applied retroactively unless the offense is a continuing one and its commission has not been stopped," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.