Sinas birthday fete draws outrage
Photo, which has since been taken down, shows Police Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas celebrating his birthday at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

Sinas birthday fete draws outrage

Emmanuel Tupas, Neil Jayson Servallos (The Philippine Star) - May 14, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Metro Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas drew public outrage and condemnation from ranking government officials for holding a large gathering during his birthday party last week in violation of the enhanced community quarantine or ECQ guidelines.

Critics, including senators, said Sinas and the police officers who organized the event should be detained along with the individuals they arrested for violating lockdown protocols.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said Sinas should have observed delicadeza or propriety as the country is battling the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

“Right there and then dapat ipatigil mo kung merong ganyan,” Año said. “That’s a big no-no habang nasa ECQ tayo, meron tayong krisis. Wala dapat mga celebration na ganyan.”

He reminded government officials to set an example to the public who are required to stay at home in compliance with lockdown protocols.

“Ito ‘yung tinatawag nating delicadeza. May mga pagkakataon na kailangan maging example ka,” Año said.

Sinas apologizes

Sinas apologized yesterday for the gathering of dozens of police officers during his birthday celebration on May 8 at the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) headquarters at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

He claimed that the pictures that circulated online were edited.

“Some of the photos were edited and grabbed from old posts. The pictures do not define the totality of what really happened,” Sinas said. “Nevertheless, I apologize for what transpired during my birthday that caused anxiety to the public. It was never my intention to disobey any quarantine protocols.”

Sinas was referring to photos, which captured cans of beer and boxes of liquor on the table. The guests were seen not wearing face masks and violating social distancing measure.

The NCRPO public information office clarified that the photos were taken in December last year.

“It was a coincidence that Sinas was wearing the same shirt,” the NCRPO said in a statement.

The photos cast doubt on what Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Archie Gamboa described as merely a “mañanita” or an early morning serenade, which prompted allegations of double standards in punishing violators of quarantine regulations.

While mañanita is part of tradition among PNP officials, Año said the birthday party for Sinas was uncalled for.

In an interview with  “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News on Tuesday night, Sinas insisted that he did not violate lockdown measures.

Sinas said the guests wore face masks and gloves during the event.

“I don’t think I violated quarantine guidelines. Pagkatapos nilang mag wish, kumanta at pinauwi ko na po sila,” he said.

Sinas said he had no choice but to accept his well-wishers instead of keeping them outside his quarters.

There was no catering and the guests were only given packed meals consisting of lechon or roasted pig and pancit, he said.

“Wala po akong party. In fact, nung araw na ‘yun busy kami sa pagmo-monitor at pagbibigay ng mga relief goods,” Sinas said.

Photographs taken during the event and uploaded on the NCRPO’s Facebook page showed dozens of guests crowding at a buffet table. In another picture, Sinas and other police officials were seen without face masks.

The pictures were taken down after the posts went viral on social media.

IAS, NBI probe

Gamboa, who earlier defended Sinas, ordered the Internal Affairs Service (IAS) to look into the incident to determine if quarantine measures were violated during the party.

Gamboa instructed IAS chief Alfegar Triambulo to send an investigating team to the NCRPO headquarters to gather evidence.

“The move was prompted by media reports that measures on physical distancing and mass gathering were violated by the police officers during the event,” PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said.

Banac reminded police officials they are not exempted from quarantine protocols.

“The PNP is not exempt from strict rules on mass gathering and I am directing all unit commanders to prohibit all social gatherings,” he said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also directed the National Bureau of Investigation to determine if Sinas and other police officers violated quarantine guidelines.

“Authorities should enforce the law fairly, regardless of who is involved,” Guevarra said.

‘Punish party cops’

Senators pushed for an investigation and sanctions against Sinas.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Department of the Interior and Local Government or National Police Commission should look into the incident even as he chided the PNP chief for prematurely clearing Sinas.

“This sends bad signals to the public. At least a reprimand is in order. Our countrymen will not be happy if they see that gathering. If ordinary people violate the ECQ, they are arrested, but if they are officials, they can violate. No one would want that,” Sotto told reporters.

He said he would not be surprised if no less than President Duterte would scold Sinas over the incident.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said “violations of the rules and abuses by law enforcers, erode the confidence of the people in the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) and its ability to contain the pandemic.”

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said penalties under the Bayanihan Law should be imposed on the NCRPO officers.

The birthday party for Sinas did not sit well with Senators Panfilo Lacson and Ronald dela Rosa, both former PNP chiefs.

Lacson said Sinas is supposed to lead the implementation of quarantine protocols.

Dela Rosa said the food packs should have been left at the quarters of Sinas to avoid mass gathering.

Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas urged the PNP to punish the police officers who attended the party. – Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Evelyn Macairan, Elizabeth Marcelo, Christina Mendez

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