MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation will continue its probe into local government officials who may have violated the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.
This was after President Rodrigo Duterte suspended disciplinary proceedings against government officials amid the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.
Administrative Order No. 29 dated April 7 states that the suspension applies to all appeals, petitions for review, and administrative disciplinary cases filed against governors and members of the sangguniang panlalawigan, mayors, vice mayors, and members of the sangguniang panlungsod and presidential appointees.
But Guevarra explained that the NBI is conducting investigations into matters that are criminal in nature, and not disciplinary cases where it has no jurisdiction.
“The NBI is not engaged in disciplinary actions against government officials. Its mandate is to investigate crimes,” he said in a message to reporters.
“The Bayanihan law… specifically directs the Department of the Interior and Local Government to file administrative cases, and the DOJ to investigate (through the NBI) and prosecute local government officials who wilfully violate or contravene the mandatory provisions of the Bayanihan law,” he added.
Disciplinary proceedings halted
In his order, Duterte noted that the mobility of people has been heavily restricted because of the quarantine, which took effect last March 17 and is supposed to end on April 30.
"The reglementary periods for the commencement of appeals, petitions for review, and administrative disciplinary cases, filing of pleadings, appearances, motions, notices, and all other papers shall be deemed interrupted during the entire duration of the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) until the lifting thereof," the order read.
It however does not apply to urgent cases that are “necessary to enable the government to act expeditiously on matters affecting the current public health emergency.”
On March 31, NBI Director Eric Distor mobilized bureau agents to look into possible violations of the Bayanihan law or RA 11469 committed by LGU officials.
This was after Duterte told Congress in his weekly report that the “NBI is investigating and filing charges against local government officials who wilfully disregard, contravene, or violate national guidelines on community quarantine.”
Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto is one of the local government officials facing a fact-finding probe by the bureau.
NBI wrote to Sotto and asked him to explain “alleged violation of Section 6(a) of the Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. (e.g. continuous tricycle operation).”
But Sotto already said on March 19 that the Pasig local government will comply with national directives which include suspension of mass transportation across Luzon.
RA 11469, meanwhile, was signed into law on March 24.
Sotto filed his reply to the NBI on Tuesday, April 7. — Kristine Joy Patag
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