Vico Sotto probe an ‘unnecessary distraction’ from virus battle: law expert

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MANILA – A government investigation into Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto's supposed violation of policies under a Luzon-wide lockdown is an "unnecessary distraction" from efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, a law expert said Thursday.

Implementors of the lockdown could have just called Sotto about his initial refusal to ban tricycles that ferry medical workers, or file charges when the crisis abates, said former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te.

"This is something that we do not need at this point. This is a distraction that is really unnecessary," he told ANC. "Everyone should just be working."

Even while law and order "is important in terms of addressing the need not to have systems breakdown," the COVID-19 battle is primarily "a health issue," said Te.

"The national government needs LGUs to run things at ground level. Filing cases against mayors who are creative in their solutions — even though it might be different from what the national government — might be counter-productive," he added.

The 30-year-old Sotto complied with the tricycle ban on March 19, a few days before lawmakers passed the Bayanihan Heal as One Act that gave President Rodrigo Duterte special powers for the coronavirus response.

The law cannot be applied retroactively against the mayor, said some senators, including his uncle Senate President Vicente Sotto, who authored the bill.

The hashtag "#ProtectVico" topped worldwide trends on the same day as thousands of netizens – including usually apolitical celebrities – tweeted their "disappointment" with the National Bureau of Investigation's inquiry on Sotto.


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