By Vanne Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Wednesday that authorities in the executive department should investigate the recent gathering of policemen to celebrate the birthday of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Debold Sinas.
In a teleconference with reporters, Sotto said he agrees that Sinas and his men breached social distancing measures and mass gathering prohibitions when the NCRPO threw a birthday celebration for Sinas last Friday, May 8.
According to Sotto, one of the principal authors of the “Bayanihan to Heal as One” Act, this sets a bad example to the people amid the government’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“Hindi maganda, kung totoong party, hindi maganda. At hindi tama. Ganon kalinaw lang ‘yon (It’s not good, if that was really a party. And it is not right),” he said when asked to comment on the matter.
The Bayanihan Act penalizes officials who disobey national government policies or directives in imposing quarantines. Last March 13, the Office of the President issued a memorandum prohibiting mass gatherings.
Mass gathering was defined as planned or spontaneous event where the number of people attending the event could strain the planning and response resources of the city or municipality where the event will be held.
Sotto said he leaves it to the executive department to deal with the issue, saying the “execution of the Bayanihan Act is [their] hands.”
But he said the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) should at least launch an inquiry to investigate the birthday celebration and filed appropriate administrative cases against the erring police officers.
PNP chief General Archie Gamboa, however, said he thinks there had been no violation of laws and quarantine regulations.
“That will leave a bad taste in the mouth of some of our countrymen, especially the people in Metro Manila. Kasi ang iisipin nila, pagka pala pulis ang gumawa ng violation, pwede; hindi man lang pagsasabihan (Because people will think that policemen are allowed to commit violations; that they will not be reprimanded),” Sotto said of Gamboa’s remarks.
“At least a reprimand is in order. Walang matutuwa sa mga kababayan natin ‘yong ganon na makikita, pag maliit at karaniwan na tao, huhulihin; pagka opisyal ang gumawa eh pwede (Our people would not like seeing ordinary citizens being arrested for quarantine violations, while government officials are allowed). Walang makakagusto no’n (Nobody would like that),” he added.
Sotto said government officials should not be exempted from the enforcement of laws.
In a statement, Sinas insisted that health and safety measures were observed during the party initiated by his officers, contrary to the photos posted by the NCRPO Public Information Office on Facebook.
The Metro Manila police chief said some of the photos were “edited and grabbed from old posts”.
The NCRPO has since deleted its post.
The PNP has arrested over 135,000 quarantine violators. Gamboa said last April they will immediately arrest, without warning, those who violate community quarantine guidelines.