While Filipinos are being ordered to stay home to avoid catching the coronavirus, law enforcers are out to enforce quarantine rules.
Under the Joint Task Force COVID Shield of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other security agencies, the police are tasked to lead the implementation of health protocols.
On the first day of the reimposition of the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila on August 6, the policed apprehended and filed complaints against 353 individuals who allegedly broke lockdown rules. By the end of the first week of ECQ, cops had nabbed 40,000 alleged violators.
The cops’ aggressiveness in enforcing the law, however, is always set back by the much-publicized occasions where law enforcers themselves violated COVID-19 protocols.
Before getting appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as the country’s top cop, General Debold Sinas invited national attention for the birthday party that his staff and friends threw for him in the middle of the first lockdown. They justified it as just a “mañanita.”
The celebration of Sinas’ 55th birthday in May 2020, while he was Metro Manila police chief, broke rules on mass gatherings and physical distancing and the liquor ban. Photos of the gathering were uploaded to the Facebook page of the Metro Manila police but were later deleted.
Despite the controversy, government officials defended Sinas. Among them was President Duterte, who even called Sinas a “good officer.”
A few weeks after the incident, the PNP filed criminal and administrative complaints against Sinas and 18 other cops involved in the party.
However, between then and now – a span of more than a year – Sinas was even promoted to become PNP chief, and had retired. The complaints have not progressed significantly.
COVID-positive Sinas skips health screening
Even when he was already PNP chief, Sinas figured in controversies.
On March 11, 2021, Sinas visited Oriental Mindoro to check on Mimaropa cops, but he skipped the province’s health screening. On the same day, he announced that he was COVID-positive.
Sinas reasoned out that he skipped screening to spend longer time with the cops. The Oriental Mindoro provincial government did not condone Sinas and instead revealed how the top cop violated health protocols.
The Oriental Mindoro provincial government said Sinas was brought in by a helicopter directly to the Mimaropa police office, instead of passing through a screening area where travelers were being screened.
Mass gathering by Quezon local police
In December 2020, Police Captain Joseph Ian Java, chief of Dolores police in Quezon province, was relieved over a reported mass gathering inside their police station.
The Quezon provincial police confirmed the relief of Java, but explained that the mass gathering was a “small fellowship” and not a Christmas party. The Quezon police said someone complained about the incident so they decided to launch a probe and relieve the local police chief.
The local police chief violated not only the health protocols set by the country’s anti-COVID-19 task force, but also the order of, ironically, then-PNP chief Sinas. The order states the “prohibition of social gatherings, parties and other similar activities most particularly this Yuletide season and on IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) COVID-19 safety protocols.”
For the same violation, the local police chief was relieved, while Sinas was promoted.
April Fools’ Day prank in Pampanga
Last April 2, personnel of the Angeles City Police Station 5 filmed an April Fools’ Day prank and posted it on the Facebook page of SY Music Entertainment.
In the video, cops were seen arresting an individual as part of their prank. The police mobile was also used for the said activity, which was not part of the police’s official duty.
Two days after the incident, on April 4, Angeles City Mayor Carmelo Lazatin Jr. ordered the relief of all personnel in the said station.
Lazatin also ordered “to close down SY Music Entertainment and suspend their permit to operate” for quarantine violations, which included not wearing of face masks, non-observance of social distancing protocols, and mass gathering.
Cops faking COVID-19 test results
In July, as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise in Zamboanga City, the number of apprehended quarantine violators also rose.
The Zamboanga City government on July 21 caught over 30 people who presented fake RT-PCR test results. Of the number, eight were policemen.
According to the Zamboanga City government, the cops submitted fake COVID-19 results during a screening at a local port. The cops are facing criminal and administrative complaints for violating health protocols.
COVID-positive QC cops deployed during SONA
During President Duterte’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 26, at least 118 cops from the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) were deployed to assist in the event.
However, after two days, the Quezon City government revealed that 82 cops in the QCPD Talipapa Station 3 tested positive for COVID-19. The QC government said some of the cops might have been deployed for SONA.
Later that day, QCPD director Brigadier General Antonio Yarra confirmed that 51 of 118 cops deployed were COVID-positive. This means 40% of the total QC cops deployed were infected with the virus.
Yarra explained that the cops had undergone RT-PCR tests on July 23, but the tests came out only on July 27 and 28, after the SONA. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosaro Vergeire said there was a breach in protocol in that incident because the cops should not have been deployed while they were awaiting their test results.
On July 29, PNP chief Police General Guillermo Eleazar ordered the relief of the station commander of the QCPD Talipapa Station 3. – Rappler.com