By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The summons of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto for possible violation of Republic Act 11469 or Bayanihan to Heal as One Act is pure harassment, said human rights lawyer Josalee Deinla.
“If there are people who are intolerant of dissent, there are also those who are intolerant of people who are making them look bad because it only shows how incompetent the government is,” Deinla, spokesperson of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said during Bulatlat’s second episode of Bulatlatan entitled “#COVID-19: Lockdown, Double Standards and Impunity,” April 2.
Sotto allowed the limited operation of tricycles in Pasig City when the government has started implementing the “enhanced community quarantine” on March 16 to ferry health workers and constituents in need of medical care.
Sotto said that they have been compliant with all directives of the national government in terms of responding to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and therefore no violations have been committed.
They’re asking for an “explanation on the alleged violation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (e.g. continuous tricycle operation)”
We complied with all directives. Hindi po illegal magbigay ng opinyon.
…at alam kaya nila na March 24 naging batas ang Bayanihan Act? https://t.co/PY4LzZDf8y
— Vico Sotto (@VicoSotto) April 1, 2020
“If we look at the intent (of allowing tricycles to operate), it is justified. It is not like he just violated the order of the national government arbitrarily,” Deinla said.
She said in this time that the country is facing public health crisis, the people cannot help but to compare government response to local leaders who have been handling the situation well.
Deinla also agreed with Sotto’s opinion that RA 11469 could not be used to penalize actions undertaken before the law’s enactment, which was on March 24.
‘Malacanang memo no penal provisions’
Meanwhile, the NBI changed its tune and said recently that Sotto has violated the Palace memorandum issued on March 16.
The memorandum states that mass public transport facilities shall be suspended.
However, Deinla said the memo has no penal provisions therefore Sotto cannot be investigated for the purpose of preparing a case to be filed in court. She said an investigation like this by law enforcement authorities like the NBI means that this is a prelude to a criminal action.
“But when we look at the memo, is there anything in it that makes Sotto criminally liable? I don’t remember such provision in the memo,” she said.
“If there are LGUs that have violations, why single out Mayor Sotto? Is this because he is supported by the people? Or is it because his response (to the pandemic) affirms the incompetence of the national government?” she added.