‘Sorry’ Sinas probed over birthday gathering
MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police have been ordered to investigate Metro Manila’s highest police official, Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, for alleged violation of quarantine rules when he celebrated his 55th birthday last week.
Reports and pictures of the “mañanita” dawn gathering of police officers on Sinas’ birthday on May 8 at the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) headquarters drew sharp criticism and charges of double standard against him and the PNP itself.
Several pictures showed a sizable number of policemen gathering around a buffet spread and several round tables set up with Sinas and other police officials, who were not wearing face masks and dressed in civilian attire, seated around one of them.
Sinas was photographed doing a fist bump with one policeman and another showed him blowing out the candle on a birthday cake.
At least 20 photographs of the event at Camp Bagong Diwa have been taken down from the NCRPO Facebook page.
Año: A big no-no
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said, “My instruction is to look into all reported cases of noncooperation/violation of quarantine protocols, regardless of who is involved. The NBI knows who these people are.”
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told the PNP to also investigate the mañanita, a traditional early-morning serenade for PNP officers on their birthdays, which he described as “a big no-no while we are on ECQ (enhanced community quarantine).”
“We are in a crisis,” Año said. “I have been telling government officials, particularly those under the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government), to have some delicadeza (sense of propriety). There are instances where you should set an example.”
‘Overjoyed,’ then sorry
He noted that even if Sinas’ subordinates had surprised him on his birthday by organizing the event, the NCRPO director should have simply rejected the gesture ‘’right there and then’’ since it is prohibited under an ECQ.
In a statement, Sinas said he was “overjoyed” that day.
“Nevertheless, I apologize for what transpired during my birthday that caused anxiety to the public. It was never my intention to disobey any existing protocols relative to the implementation of enhanced community quarantine,” he said.
PNP chief Archie Gamboa on Wednesday directed the inspector general of the PNP internal affairs service to initiate a formal inquiry.
“The PNP is not exempt from strict rules on mass gatherings and I am directing all unit commanders to prohibit any and all social gatherings,” he said.
For Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite, “this is yet another display of double standard in the application of lockdown restrictions.”
“Ordinary people face instant arrests, violence or even bullets, while those in power can have parties whenever and wherever they want. They are literally getting their cake and eating it, too,” the Makabayan lawmaker said. “Aren’t they ashamed of themselves?”
Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen also chided the NCRPO. “Parties are mass gatherings. It is insensitive to hold one,” he tweeted.
Leonen pointed out that on the same day Sinas celebrated his birthday, the Supreme Court held a retirement ceremony “via a private videoconferenced ceremony” for Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr. after 40 years in public service.
“He deserves more but we had to do what was ethical while our people suffer,” Leonen said.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said it was ironic that Sinas was defending his birthday celebration but was insisting on arresting and detaining 10 community kitchen volunteers in Marikina City for allegedly organizing a mass gathering.
“This brazenly mocks arrested quarantine violators who suffered harsh treatment by the police, as well as poor families who have yet to eat decently as the government’s cash aid remains out of sight,” she said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the birthday celebration “will leave a bad taste in the mouth of some of our countrymen … They will think that policemen are allowed to commit violations (of the law).”
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, said Sinas had set “a bad example.”
“Social gathering clearly has its price healthwise, considering the tricky nature of the COVID-19 virus,” he said.
Letting Sinas off the hook while ordinary citizens are being arrested for not complying with enhanced community quarantine protocols, is hypocritical of the government, according to Sen. Francis Pangilinan. —WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA, DEXTER CABALZA, MARLON RAMOS AND PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU
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