Philippine National Police

Sinas’ rise to PNP chief shows Duterte rewarding rights violators

Jodesz Gavilan

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Groups fear Debold Sinas’ appointment as PNP chief will worsen the human rights situation in the Philippines

Human rights groups on Monday, November 9, said that it came as no surprise that President Rodrigo Duterte chose Major General Debold Sinas as the next Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.

In separate statements, Karapatan and Amnesty International said that this move fits perfectly into the widespread culture of impunity under Duterte.

“President Rodrigo Duterte has a clear penchant for rewarding the most notorious of human rights violators among his minions with rank promotions as well as higher budgets for their agencies,” Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday announced that Sinas will take over the PNP’s top post on Tuesday, November 10. He succeeds General Camilo Cascolan, who retires from the service.

Sinas shot to infamy in recent months after holding an early morning birthday party – also called a mañanita – violating community quarantine guidelines in May 2020.

But even before mañanita, Sinas’ name was synonymous with the rising violence and killings in Central Visayas, in which no one was held responsible, according to the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights.

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At least 320 killings were recorded in Cebu during Sinas’ time, with at least 120 during police operations while the rest were vigilante-style killings.

They also hit Sinas’ involvement in the anti-communist operations called Oplan Sauron in Negros Island, which critics claim to have worsened the situation in the region.  (READ: Negros Oriental bloodshed: State-sponsored or insurgency-related?)

With Sinas’ appointment, Karapatan fears that the “fascist regime is gearing up for an intensified crackdown on dissent and assault on human rights.”

‘Epitome of impuniy’

Amnesty International, meanwhile, said that appointing Sinas as top PNP chief shows to what length the Duterte administration will go to tolerate and even promote violence in the country.

“Sinas’ appointment to the highest police post is the epitome of impunity,” Amnesty’s Philippines section director Butch Olano said.

“President Duterte’s response has so far been to encourage the killings, protect those who kill for him and reward some with the highest government posts,” he added.

Amnesty International urged the Duterte administration to end police abuses, including the killings under its brutal campaign against drugs.

Figures from the Philippine National Police show that at least 7,884 suspected drug personlaties were killed during police operations from July 1, 2016 to August 31, 2020.

The number does include those killed by vigilantes, which human rights groups estimate to have reached more than 27,000 already. (READ: The Impunity Series) –

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.