Sinas promotion blow to discipline

By: Ramon J. Farolan - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | November 16,2020 - 08:00 AM

Seven months ago, Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, director of the National Capital Region Police Office, was caught on the NCRPO Facebook page blowing out candles on a cake and socializing with a number of colleagues at a buffet table in violation of rules and regulations aimed at controlling the spread of a deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of thousands of our people. The occasion was the 55th birthday of the NCRPO chief. General Sinas and 18 others are facing criminal and administrative charges filed by the PNP Internal Affairs Service at the Taguig Prosecutor’s Office.

In a message to the nation, President Duterte downplayed the whole incident and sure enough, Sinas was not relieved from his post. Neither was any form of disciplinary action imposed by his superiors. The charges at the Taguig Prosecutor’s Office have not been heard from since then, and it is likely that they never will. As the Mona Lisa song goes, “They just lie there, and they die there.”

Last week, General Sinas was promoted to the position of chief of the Philippine National Police, making him the highest law enforcement officer of the land. He retires in May next year. What a wonderful going-away present from the Commander in Chief! It appears he was programmed for the job the moment he became NCRPO chief and nothing was going to alter the course, certainly not some mundane issue like a “mañanita” in the time of COVID-19. For any leader to be effective, he must have the respect of the citizenry and the men who serve with him. Otherwise, he remains a mere figurehead. There is a vital link between exemplary leadership and discipline. Soldiers and policemen follow the rules and obey orders, if they observe that the leader imposes the same conditions on himself. When they sense that the leader takes all kinds of liberties and gets away with them, a free-for-all situation develops.

In moving up to the post of PNP chief, Sinas bypassed two of his classmates: Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, deputy for administration, and Lt. Gen. Cesar Binag, deputy for operations. If Eleazar had been named PNP chief, there would be practically no chance for Sinas as Eleazar retires in November 2021. One can easily see that part of the problem of leadership in the PNP is similar to that existing in the AFP. There is a “revolving door” practice that is just as acute as in the armed forces. The last two PNP chiefs were around for only a few months. In any organization, military or civilian, no substantial, long-lasting reforms that truly bring about transformation can succeed under a short-term leadership. Whatever changes come about from such management policies are mostly cosmetic in nature and temporary.

We may shout our heads off each time we are faced with a Sinas scenario, but in the final analysis, we get the government that we deserve. We have in place a Western-style democracy—basically, one man, one vote. But that system works only in nations with a strong, well-informed middle class that can serve as check and balance to most abuses. Unfortunately, we have so many poor among us who will sell their votes to the one who can provide the food and security they need and as such, they become hostage to their rich and powerful “padrino.” That is how dynasties develop and stay in office, year after year after year. And this is fueled by an utang na loob mentality that places loyalty above good governance. Sometimes that one vote can disappear. Other times, that one vote becomes a thousand votes depending on who does the counting.

I don’t have the answers. But perhaps, we can start by providing for better facilities at the grassroots level in order to secure a stronger foundation for a well-informed and responsible citizenry. We pride ourselves in the outstanding performance of some of our educational institutions, mostly private. But surveys show that we are at the bottom of the heap when it comes to basic education skills, like reading and mathematics. To overcome these inadequacies, we need national leaders with vision, strength, and integrity who will espouse the common interest above narrow tribal loyalties.

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