DILG says NBI invitation to Sotto '' useless political distraction''
The Department of Interior and Local Government(DILG) on Thursday said the invitation given by the National Bureau of Investigation to Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto is a “useless political distraction” as the government is battling the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
"This act of summoning the mayor of Pasig is a useless political distraction at this time when all of us are preparing and all of us cooperate to beat the COVID-19 crisis that we are in,” Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said in an interview over CNN’s The Source.
Malaya, the DILG spokesman, made the statement after NBI on Wednesday sent a letter to Sotto aasking him to explain on the continuous tricycle operation while the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is being implemented in the entire Luzon island.
According to the government’s guidelines, mass transportation is suspended during the one-month period of EQC.
Malaya said the incident over the tricycle operation in the city is closed and they were ''surprised'' about the NBI’s invitation.
“The mayor of Pasig was already cooperative. At one time, he did allow the tricycles to operate in Pasig and upon the request of the DILG, he cooperated. There is really no issue on in so far the DILG is concerned now,” he said.
“We were also surprised when we heard the NBI has summoned Mayor Vico Sotto,” he added.
Malaya added that even Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra does not support the NBI’s action as the alleged violation of Sotto was committed before the Bayanihan Heal as One Act was signed.
“When this story came out, I immediately talked to our colleagues from the Department of Justice (DOJ). Secretary Guevarra made the clarification, clearly stating that he does not support the action of NBI because on the basis of this alleged violation of the Bayanihan Act, was done prior to the passage of the Bayanihan Act… I think it is very clear already on where the DOJ stands,” he said.
Sotto also questioned the letter as the local government of Pasig did not violate any guidelines from the act.
He also found it weird that the media where the first to know that he was being invited by the NBI before he even received the letter.
“From the start of the community quarantine we have fully complied with all the directives from the national government, If this is the issue on tricycle (operation) the issue was on March 19 and the Bayanihan Heal as One Act was enacted by March 24, this does not have any sense… It is clear that we did not violate the law in fact it didn’t even exist during the time of the issue,” he said.
Sotto said even if he gave his opinion about the situation in his area, he still complied with the answer given to him by the government.
“I appealed to them. I gave my opinion- it’s not illegal to give your own opinion- and whatever their answer is, I respected it and the Pasig City followed all the directives of the national government,” he added.
Sotto in a statement to his constituents, urged them to ignore the issue as he will continue to work for them.
In a radio interview, NBI spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin said Sotto violated the memorandum issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea last March 16.
Lavin also clarified it was not only him that is being summoned but also a barangay chairperson in Metro Manila.
“NBI invited them to explain why our Anti-graft Investigating Division saw a possible violation from them… I would like to make it clear that there is no case yet, they are just being summoned to explain,” he said.
“The nature of the invitation is it will not be proper for the NBI to just ask the mayor… we have a office there, he’s representative (can go there and explain)… we also have a portion on the invitation asking them to bring their ordinances, their plans and programs on how they implement the community quarantine,” Lavin said.
In a statement, NBI said Barangay Chairman Emiliano Ramos of Barangay Talon Uno of Las Pinas City and barangay chairman Rodolfo Palma of Barangay Pagasa, Quezon City were also invited for violating the Bayanihan Act.
They will also sent invitation letter to local government officials from Masbate and Cebu City. NBI said even Senator Koko Pimentel will be invited once his quarantine is over.
“The NBI will not spare any LGU officials from their investigation and filing of charges if evidence would warrant such action,” it said. Ella Dionisio/DMS