Duterte sides with Sinas: 'He stays until further orders'

President Rodrigo Duterte defended Metro Manila police chief Major General Debold Sinas, who faces criminal raps for violating community quarantine rules when he and a number of other cops held a party for his birthday on May 8.

In a televised speech that started late Tuesday, May 19, and ended early Wednesday, May 20, Duterte said he prevented Sinas from getting "transferred," calling him "a good officer" and "an honest one."

"Hindi niya kasalanan kung may mangharana sa kaniya sa birthday niya. At kung 'yun namang nagsasabi na nakikitang hindi naka-mask, eh siyempre may merienda 'yan, may pagkain. Alangan namang kainin nila pati 'yung mask? 'Di tanggalin talaga nila. Kainan 'yun eh," Duterte said.

(It's not his fault if he is serenaded on his birthday. And those who say it was obvious they didn't have masks on, well of course, it was merienda, there was food. Were they to eat the masks? Of course they took them off. It was a feast.)

The President said he studied the "merits and demerits" of Sinas' case, but decided he needed the police general in his job, and no one else.

"They're all competent but, you know, seniority. It is his time to be there. And I do not believe in firing him just because kinantahan siya ng (people sang to him) 'Happy birthday,'" Duterte added.

He said he was sure Sinas would have disagreed had he known his men were planning a surprise party for him.

"Pero kung nandiyan na rin – mañanita nga (But if it's there already – it's a mañanita)," the President added.

"Sabihin mo, 'The law is the law.' Eh, akin na 'yun. (You'll say, 'The law is the law.' Well, that's up to me.) It's my responsibility," Duterte said.

"But I will not order his transfer. He stays there until further orders," he added.

Sinas and 18 other policemen face criminal cases filed by the Philippine National Police with the Taguig City Prosecutor's Office on May 15. They are accused of violating the ordinance on wearing face masks and practicing physical distancing during the coronavirus lockdown.

They were also accused of violating the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.

Normally, police officers facing investigations are relieved from duty or even suspended in order to prevent them from influencing the outcome of the probe.

On May 8, several cops surprised Sinas with a mañanita or early morning serenade for his 55th birthday at their headquarters, Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Photos posted by the National Capital Region Police Office on its Facebook page showed what appeared to be a full-on party. In some of the photos, Sinas and other cops didn't have their face masks on.

One photo showed them seated together around a table.

Sinas has apologized for the incident, but also said it would have been "ungentlemanly" to turn down the surprise party. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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