By Jeffrey Damicog and Hannah Torregoza
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday warned the government that it will have difficulty in enforcing quarantine rules if violating law enforcers go unpunished.
“If the implementer himself does not follow the rules imposed by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases), you will find difficulty for the ordinary citizen to follow the same rules,” Drilon said during an interview over CNN Philippines.
Drilon also said President Duterte’s move to defend National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Major General Debold Sinas will erode the public’s trust on the IATF that is tasked to enforce rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease or COVID-19.
Drilon issued the warning after Duterte, in his late-night televised speech, defended Sinas who faces criminal charges for violating community quarantine rules when he and a number of cops celebrated his birthday with a party last May 8.
Duterte also said in his speech he prevented Sinas from getting transferred and called him a “good officer” and an “honest one.”
According to Duterte, it wasn’t Sinas’ fault if his colleagues serenaded him during his 55th birthday at their headquarters in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. He also said Sinas shouldn’t be faulted for not wearing a mask since they need to eat during the party.
“The IATF has imposed this social distancing and the implementer is the PNP (Philippine National Police). The PNP itself does not follow the rules enforced by the IATF,” he added.
“It erodes the credibility of the IATF and the PNP to enforce the rules that they promulgated because the implementers themselves do not follow them,” he pointed out.
The case against Sinas stemmed from photos posted on the NCRPO Facebook page regarding the May 8 “mananita” arranged by his subordinates which has been seen as violating quarantine protocols.
The PNP’s-Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS) has already filed last May 15 charges against Sinas and other NCRPO officers before the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is also conducting a separate investigation on the incident.
The charge sheet filed by the PNP-AIS states that Sinas and other NCRPO officials were found to have gathered in his quarters at Camp Bagong Diwa at around 5 a.m. of May 8 “without wearing face masks when the entire National Capital Region is still under an enhanced community quarantine.”
With this, Sinas and his co-respondents have been accused of violating a Taguig City ordinance for the non-wearing of face mask and Republic Act 11332, the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.
The PNP-IAS also said Sinas’ party constituted administrative offenses of “less grave neglect of duty” under a National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) memorandum circular for alleged refusal or neglect to observe Enhanced Community Quarantine protocols prohibiting mass gatherings and “less grave misconduct” on account of violation of the same R.A. 11332.
Human rights group Karapatan insisted that Sinas should be made answerable for violating quarantine protocols.
The group also expressed its dismay when President Duterte claimed that he believed that Sinas was unaware when he was accorded the “manañita.’’
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former police chief, appealed for little compassion and for the public to consider Sinas’ “long law enforcement service and his part in keeping Metro Manila safe from the coronavirus.” (With Chito Chavez)