If there are no double standards, why does National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas get to celebrate his birthday while people are facing tight restrictions due to the pandemic?
That was the question posed by international rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday, after Sinas stood firm that the “mañanita” thrown by his subordinates for his birthday does not show double standards. Instead, HRW said that Metro Manila’s top cop should be disciplined for his actions.
“Metro Manila’s police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas should be disciplined for his flagrant violation of the Philippines’ strict quarantine and lockdown regulations,” HRW Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said in a statement.
“His superiors should not allow Sinas to play this double standard game, where he celebrates his birthday with friends all around like there’s no pandemic, but the ordinary people of Metro Manila face tight restrictions enforced by his officers, whose disproportionate strictness has resulted in rights abuses,” he added.
Earlier, Sinas played down claims that the government was again showing its double standards when several individuals have been penalized due to violation of quarantine regulations, which were set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just this April, former Army Cpl. Winston Ragos, who was said to be suffering from a mental illness, was shot by police officers near a quarantine control point. Prior to that, several human rights issues, such as inhuman penalties for quarantine violators, was pointed out by human rights groups and the Commission on Human Rights.
A large concentration of the COVID-19 cases in the Philippines is in Metro Manila, which falls under the NCRPO’s jurisdiction. The Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 tracker website says that of the 11,618 cases nationwide, 7,464 are from the National Capital Region.
There are 5,315 active cases in the capital area, while 558 deaths and 1,591 recoveries have been recorded.
As of Thursday, DOH says that there are 258 new cases nationwide, bringing the total to 11,876 — with 790 casualties and 2,337 recoveries. Worldwide, over 4.347 million persons have been infected, 297,170 of whom have died while 1.548 million have recovered.
Sinas also previously said that some of the photos which showed him and other NCRPO officials sitting on a table with beer cans and bottles were manipulated, and were taken just last December. As for the shirt, Sinas claimed that he was only wearing the same shirt in both photos.
While Sinas stressed that physical distancing regulations were followed, the Philippine National Police’s Internal Affairs Service is now looking into the incident.
HRW also blasted NCRPO for trying to cover up the issue and for their vindictive attitude, after removing a Rappler reporter from the NCRPO’s Viber group.
“Responding to a public health emergency means all Filipinos should cooperate with officials, but it also imposes a burden on those officials to be exemplars of the conduct they expect from the citizenry. Maj. Gen. Sinas abysmally failed that test and he should be publicly disciplined for his actions,” Robertson added.
As of now, Sinas stays as NCRPO chief, saying that he would not take a leave unless ordered to do so by PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa or President Rodrigo Duterte himself.