NCRPO chief faces criminal raps over birthday celebration, Palace says

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
NCRPO chief faces criminal raps over birthday celebration, Palace says
Photo, which has since been taken down, shows Police Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas celebrating his birthday at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

MANILA, Philippines — Police Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, chief of the Metro Manila police, along with other participants of his birthday party on Friday, May 8, are facing criminal charges, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

Sinas drew flak on Wednesday over photographs posted by the National Capital Region Police Office's public information office that showed him celebrating his birthday at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig despite quarantine protocols against mass gatherings.

"Per my latest conversation with Philippine National Police Chief PGen. Archie Gamboa, a criminal case is now being readied to be filed tomorrow against NCRPO Chief Debold Sinas, along with other senior police officials who attended the gathering," Roque told reporters. 

"The PNP is also getting clearance from the Office of the President regarding the filing of administrative charges in violation of quarantine rules against the alleged violators," he added. 

"Sinas is a third level officer and a presidential appointee; hence, a clearance from the OP is needed for the filing of administrative charges of the PNP. The same applies to the senior police officials who are also presidential appointees."

'We didn't see anything wrong with it' 

On Thursday morning, Sinas defended the same birthday party that he apologized for just the day before. 

Speaking in an interview with CNN Philippines' "The Source", the NCRPO chief echoed numerous public officials including the chief of the national police and Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano who had played down the celebration.

Asked if he would be taking a leave of absence as a result of the incident, Sinas said: "Unless otherwise instructed by the chief PNP or the president, I don't think so."

"It's not really necessary, because I'll just wait for the result of the investigation," he added in Filipino. 

"I don't think that there's a double standard [because] our gathering then, that wasn't wrong. We didn't see anything wrong with it, for me at least. It would have been very ungentlemanly for me not to receive my guests and send them home. They prepared for that. I think we observed the protocol anyway."

Mass gatherings have been banned since March.

Various groups, from militant labor groups to rights groups, expressed their outrage over the party on social media, calling it a case of double standards in the application of the law. 

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, international rights monitor Human Rights Watch called for action to be taken against Sinas. 

"Do as I say, not as I do” is not a viable policing strategy in a pandemic. By flouting these regulations, Sinas recklessly endangered his friends and subordinates at the party, and damaged the moral authority of the Philippine National Police to act as a leading agency addressing the Covid-19 crisis," said Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at HRW. 

"Responding to a public health emergency means all Filipinos should cooperate with officials, but it also imposes a burden on those officials to be exemplars of the conduct they expect from the citizenry. Maj. Gen. Sinas abysmally failed that test and he should be publicly disciplined for his actions."

'Edited photos of spontaneous celebration'

In his apology sent to reporters the previous day, the Metro Manila police chief was careful to discredit the very photographs that came from his own public information office, saying that they were “edited and grabbed from old posts.”

He repeated this in his interview Thursday, saying: "We were able to trace them already. The friend of mine who posted them and greeted me, he admitted that they didn't come from [the NCRPO photos.] That might have come from November."

He did not mention who this person was, which photograph he was talking about, and how many photos were in doubt. 

The police chief also said that the party-goers brought packed lunch, wore face masks, and observed social distancing—all of which were belied by the photographs his own office posted.

Also on Thursday, Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar appealed for users on social media to spare the name of the national police from insults, saying that it was unfair of the public to claim there was a double standard in law enforcement. 

"The celebration happened here in my quarters, we weren't even in the streets. I told them that they would have to leave after eating because we still had much to do the following day. Nonetheless, I'm okay with whatever the probe finds," Sinas said. 

"Police officers appreciate my type of leadership that's probably why they greeted me. Nonetheless, I take responsibility. I don't want to blame them because they greeted me," he added. 

"I'm advised by IAS not to make any more statements after this interview. I don't think my apology will put rest to the case. But I had to reinstate my reason. I just asked for an apology."



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