The Philippine National Police (PNP) will be filing a criminal case against National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas and other senior police officials over alleged violations of quarantine protocols during his birthday celebration.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said this development was relayed to him by PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa over a phone conversation on Thursday afternoon.
“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 said in a statement.
He said Gamboa also bared that the PNP is also getting clearance from the Office of the President (OP) to file administrative charges against Sinas.
“Maj. Gen. 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,” Roque said.
Roque did not state the possible maximum penalty that may be imposed against Sinas and other police officials.
In a virtual presser on Thursday, Roque announced that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea has ordered PNP-Internal Affairs Services to send him a copy of the results of the PNP probe into the controversial birthday bash.
“Inatasan na po niya [Medialdea] ang Internal Affairs Services ng PNP na mag-conduct ng imbestigasyon at i-forward sa kanyang tanggapan na mismo kung ano ang resulta ng imbestigasyon (He has ordered the PNP-IAS to conduct an investigation and forward the results of the investigation to his office),” he said.
PNP-IAS Inspector General and lawyer Alfegar Triambulo, in an interview with reporters, said Sinas may face criminal and administrative charges for breaking quarantine rules.
He, however, said Sinas will not be relieved from his post pending investigation results.
Sinas earlier apologized over the incident, which was held at the NCRPO headquarters in Taguig City, but claimed some of the pictures circulating on social media were edited and grabbed from old posts.
Pictures of Sinas’ birthday celebration angered netizens, claiming there was a double standard in implementing quarantine protocols.
Following reports that local government officials in Santo Tomas, Pangasinan were also caught celebrating a birthday bash while ignoring quarantine protocols, Roque urged the public to report their complaints to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“Kung mayroon po kayong mga reklamo sa mga taong gobyerno na lumalabag sa quarantine protocols natin, iparating ninyo po sa DILG (If you have complaints about any government worker who violated quarantine protocols, report them to the DILG),” Roque said.
Roque emphasized that nobody, including national or local officials, should be exempted from quarantine protocols.
“Aaktuhan po iyan dahil seryoso po tayo: Quarantine po, iyan lang ang pamamaraan para mapabagal ang pagkalat ng sakit (They will act on it because we are serious. We are under quarantine, that is the only way we can slow down the spread of the disease) and of course we will lead by example,” he added.
Last week, videos of Santo Tomas Mayor Timoteo “Dick” Villar and several guests celebrating the latter’s birthday were uploaded on Facebook.
In one of the videos, Villar was filmed shaking hands with visitors, completely failing to observe physical distancing.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, who said Sinas’ birthday bash was “uncalled for”, reminded both local officials and police officers to set a good example in implementing quarantine protocols.
“Ang ating sinasabi sa ating mga government officials lalo na sa nasasakupan ng DILG, ito ‘yung tinatawag nating delicadeza, may mga pagkakataon na kailangan maging (good) example ka (What we are telling government officials, especially those under the DILG, is to have delicadeza. There are instances when we should set a good example),” Año said in a radio interview.
Gamboa confirmed that the IAS would take the lead in the investigation to ensure impartiality and preclude any perception of influence over the outcome of the inquiry.
“I expect to receive a complete investigation report of the incident by tomorrow. Per initial assessment, there is probable cause for the filing of criminal and administrative charges in relation to quarantine health protocols. IAS personnel are now in NCRPO gathering affidavits as support documents to file these cases,” he said in a statement sent to reporters.
Gamboa said Sinas and other NCRPO officers would be made to answer for their individual culpability that will be determined by a swift and impartial investigation to satisfy the requirements of due process.
He said for the administrative cases, they would be transmitted for approval of the OP.
“We shall refrain from issuing further statements in deference to the proceedings. Allow the investigation to take its due course and respect our prerogative to exercise command management of the PNP,” Gamboa said.
While calling Sinas’ birthday bash unfortunate, he said the incident is isolated and should not undermine the sacrifice of the PNP front-liners as more areas transition from the enhanced community quarantine to modified ECQ and general community quarantine.
“The PNP’s role in our government’s fight against the Covid-19 crisis is critical. The transition from ECQ to MECQ to GCQ will entail greater vigilance on our part to keep the Filipino public safe,” he added. (With reports from Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)