Senators slam Sinas party for ‘eroding’ people’s confidence in gov’t COVID-19 response

Published May 13, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola and Jeffrey Damicog 

Senators said the birthday celebration of Metro Manila police chief Debold Sinas could cast doubts on the government’s efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sinas is now in hot water after police officers at the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) threw a birthday gathering for him last Friday (May 8), despite the prohibition on mass gatherings and strict enforcement of social distancing measures to curb COVID-19.

“Violations of the rules and abuses by law enforcers erode the confidence of the people in the IATF and its ability to contain the pandemic,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said in a text message.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson also said “more than the quarantine violation, from whatever direction we look at the incident, it projects a bad example, coming even from those tasked to enforce the [enhanced community quarantine or ECQ].”

“Social gathering clearly has its price health-wise, considering the tricky nature of the COVID-19 virus,” said Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros also said government officials should be held to higher standards and set a good example to people.

“Tayong mga public officials, tayo dapat ang magsilbing ehemplo sa ating mga kababayan. Mali na nagde-demand tayo ng disiplina mula sa mga ordinaryong mamamayan, pero tayo mismo hindi marunong sumunod sa patakaran,” Hontiveros tweeted.

(We public officials should serve as an example to our countrymen. It is wrong to demand discipline from ordinary citizens, but we ourselves do not comply with policies.)

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile, said the issue should not end with a mere apology from Sinas. He said the NCRPO chief should be charged like all other quarantine violators.

“Mabuti pa siya, ‘sorry,’ pati lahat ng pulis at bisita na dumalo sa salo-salo, hindi kailangan makasuhan o ikulong. Habang libo-libo na ang inaaresto sa paglabag sa quarantine. Kung maari ang ‘sorry’ sa hepe ng PNP, eh di dapat pwede din ang ‘sorry’ sa lahat ng mga kinulong nila,” Pangilinan said.

(Good for him, all he and the police and visitors to his party had to do was say ‘sorry,’ and no need for them be arrested or charged. Meanwhile, thousands have been arrested for breaking quarantine. If ‘sorry’ is enough for a police official, then ‘sorry’ should also be enough for everyone they put in jail.)

“Kung may paglabag dapat kasuhan. Habang nagtitiis ang milyon nating mga kababayan na sumunod sa quarantine at inaaresto, kinakasuhan, at kinukulong ang libu-libo, heto nalang si Sinas at iba pang matataas na opisyal na hinahayaan ng gobyernong lumabag sa quarantine na walang parusa. Maling-mali,” he added.

(If there is a violation, there should be a charge. While millions of our countrymen endure quarantine and are arrested, charged, and jailed by the thousands, here are Sinas and other high officials whom the government allow to break quarantine without punishment. This is very wrong.)

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, also an ex-PNP chief, believed that the NCRPO did not mean harm in celebrating Sinas’ birthday.

“The intention was good but the manner of execution was not good. I heard that the PNP leadership has directed IAS (Internal Affairs Service) to conduct an investigation, so it is a good move by the PNP,” Dela Rosa said.

Sinas has apologized for the holding the birthday party. He, however, maintained that physical distancing and other safety measures were observed during their gathering.

Earlier, PNP chief Archie Gamboa said there has been no violation of any quarantine rules, citing a report from Sinas.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Republic Act No. 11469) penalizes officials who disobey national government policies or directives on quarantines. The Office of the President also issued a memorandum prohibiting mass gatherings to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Lawyers’ group hits Sinas party

Meanwhile, a lawyer’s group on Wednesday (May 13) said the public’s faith in the government further deteriorated with Sinas’s staging of a birthday celebration.

National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) secretary-general Ephraim Cortez pointed this out amid mounting criticisms over the party.

“The partial application of the law that Sinas just exemplified further erodes what little faith the people may still have in this inept government,” Cortez said in a statement.

The lawyer said the NCRPO Facebook page showed that “Sinas threw a birthday party in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City amid the pandemic, despite the prohibition against mass gatherings as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

“BGen. Sinas has the gall to violate quarantine rules and publicly display thoughtless extravagance at a time when many people are jobless, hungry and desperately waiting for government aid,” Cortez said.

The lawyer claimed the PNP has been even arresting volunteer workers and ordinary citizens for allegedly breaking quarantine rules.

“The PNP is unrelenting in its crackdown on ordinary people for purported violations of the law and quarantine rules, which its officials and personnel are themselves breaking,” he said. “This is nothing but a glaring, shameless and outrageous instance of double standard and selective justice.”

The lawyer lamented that in dealing with the pandemic the government has decide to conduct “critic tracing instead of contact tracing, mass arrests instead of mass tests.”

Read more: Investigate NCRPO chief’s birthday fete for apparent social distancing breach, says Sotto