DAVAO CITY, Philippines – As criminal charges are set to be filed against National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Chief Debold Sinas for holding a birthday celebration that broke quarantine protocol, critics point out the police losing further credibility because of the double standard in applying the law.
The Manila Police chief’s birthday celebration came under fire when it was posted on social media, with netizens calling for police accountability for flouting the government’s ban of mass gatherings amid coronavirus outbreak.
Sinas flip-flopped in his statements, as he explained the photos were “edited” and grabbed from old birthday photos. But later he apologized over this incident.
“It was never my intention to disobey any existing protocols relative to the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ),” Sinas said.
But former Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel Casilao slammed the police “for violating the very rule they are trying to impose to the broad population in Metro Manila and various parts of the country.”
“So ‘P’ in PNP now stands for ‘pasaway’ (hard-headed) and they had the gall to insult the people who are subjected by the lockdown. They even killed one to sow a chilling effect for the people to follow the rule, and then this, right in our very eyes,” said Casilao, referring to the police shooting of ex-soldier Winston Ragas, who was suffering from post-war trauma.
“We demand Sinas and all those present to be held accountable for violating the rule against mass gathering and on physical distancing,” Casilao added.
He also criticized the “iron-hand” of the Philippine National Police for arresting relief workers for allegedly violating quarantine rules.
Last May 1, police officers arrested ten relief workers in Marikina City, accusing them of illegal assembly and disobedience to authority. 18 other youth volunteers and residents in Barangay Central, Quezon City were arrested while preparing food for a community kitchen.
The courts had dismissed their cases.
Casilao was also detained along with six other volunteers in their food relief distribution in Norzagaray, Bulacan last April 19 for allegedly violating quarantine rules, disobedience to authority and sedition.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) also criticized the PNP’s “shameless double standard” and “selective justice” in imposing quarantine rules.
“As the ancient and oft-quoted Latin maxim goes, the law is harsh but it is the law; but this is not so for PNP officials, who can throw parties as they please, while critics and ordinary citizens are being arrested on arbitrary grounds,” the NUPL said in a statement.
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) pointed out that under Sinas’ watch, Metro Manila became a “hotspot” for human rights abuses.
Lockdown restrictions, the Bayan said, “led to draconian control of the population, overkill deployment of troops in communities, and the imposition of harsh penalties on so-called “pasaways” or quarantine violators.”
“Tens of thousands of desperate individuals seeking food, aid, and jobs were slapped with fines and even spurious charges for alleged ECQ violations,” the group said.
By mid-April, the PNP recorded a total of 136,517 ECQ violators.(davaotoday.com)