Duterte clears Sinas over mañanita controversy
Photo release shows Police Gen. Debold Sinas undergoing a coronavirus swab test.
Release / PNP PIO

Duterte clears Sinas over mañanita controversy

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - November 15, 2020 - 10:10am

MANILA, Philippines — If it were up to him, President Rodrigo Duterte would clear Police Gen. Debold Sinas, his personal pick for the position of PNP chief, for his earlier mañanita controversy. 

Speaking in a taped public message on Saturday evening, the chief executive said Sinas did not commit anything that had “moral implications or malice.”

"That's on me. If he's found liable for it, I would pardon him. I didn't see anything malicious with it," Duterte said in mixed Filipino and English, referring to the birthday party held by Sinas and other ranking police execs at the height of the strict enhanced community quarantine. 

"It's not Sinas' fault that [his colleagues] came, he didn't know it would happen. Mañanita is a surprise, obviously he wouldn't kick them out," he added, contradicting Palace claims that the general has not yet been cleared of potential charges. 

The president may only pardon after a formal conviction, however, and may not clear anyone of criminal charges before these are even established. 

As it stands, Sinas is facing two complaints for his mañanita controversy, both of which are still pending before the Taguig City Prosecutors Office to this day.

The chief executive had already made clear his support for the police general even after the incident took place, calling him a "good and honest officer." The case has been pointed to by many on social media as an example of selective justice and double standards, with many others being arrested for less flagrant quarantine violations. 

Sinas himself has asserted that his controversy does not diminish his credibility as the country's top cop, urging the national police in his installation speech to "walk the talk" despite his quarantine violations. 

READ: Sinas dares critics to file charges, says 'mañanita' does not diminish credibility as top cop | Palace: Sinas not cleared of charges despite PNP chief appointment

DOJ: Investigation still has to proceed 

Even the Palace has said that investigative proceedings over the charges held against Sinas would continue despite his appointment as PNP chief. It also made the same pronouncement back in May, saying he would still be held liable after Duterte first cleared the general.  

In a text message to reporters, justice secretary Menardo Guevarra asserted that a pardon could only come if guilt was established at the end of an investigation. 

"The DOJ/prosecutor has to complete the process of preliminary investigation. Executive clemency may come only after a finding of guilt. If there's no finding of guilt, there's no room for the application of executive clemency...[The phrase] 'if he has fault' indicates that the president will wait for a finding of fault or guilt after a proper proceeding, whether administrative or criminal," Guevarra said. 

"Whatever it was that the president said about his intent to pardon General Sinas, the DOJ will do what it is duty-bound to do, and the president may also do what he is constitutionally authorized to do...the president is very much aware that a case is still pending and he is merely indicating his intent to act with liberality, in consideration of General Sinas’ overall performance as a career police officer," he also said.

READ: Amid coronavirus pandemic, newly-minted police chiefs bare focus on illegal drugs

As of this post, PNP's independent Internal Affairs Service has yet to report any progress on the administrative charges held against its parent agency's new chief. 

"Sinas has shown his capacity and willingness to follow the orders of Duterte in terms of the drug war and counter-insurgency. In a way, he's a perfect soldier for Duterte, and that raises a huge concern," the New York-based Human Rights Watch said earlier. 

— with a report from Kristine Joy Patag

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