MANILA: A birthday bash held for Manila’s police chief during the coronavirus lockdown is being probed, the National Bureau of Investigation said Saturday.
According to excerpts from the charge sheet and investigation notes by the Philippine National Police - Internal Affairs Service, partygoers gathered in the early morning (around 5 AM) of May 8 to celebrate the 55th birthday of Major General Debold Sinas and without mandatory face masks “when the entire national capital region was still under Enhanced Community Quarantine.”
Sinas has until May 20 to submit a written explanation to the NBI about the incident.
The PNP-IAS filed a case on Friday against Sinas and 18 other police officers. It alleged that the party violated stringent physical distancing measures imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Sinas has been named in the charge sheet along with five brigadier generals, eight colonels, one lieutenant colonel, two majors, and two corporals. Photos of his party went viral on social media after being posted on an official police force Facebook page.
Some of the images showed police officers giving red roses to Sinas, while in another picture, the Metro Manila police chief was seated at a table with six other people. Nobody was wearing face masks. There were reported to be around 50 people at the party.
Former PNP chief Panfilo Lacson, who is now a senator, said on Friday that Sinas had set a bad example.
“As a result, he has been bashed, criticized and pilloried both on social and mainstream media for the incident, even as he has since apologized and regretted his indiscretion.”
While President Rodrigo Duterte agreed that Sinas’ lockdown birthday bash was wrong, he would let the investigation determine what course of action to take against Sinas, said presidential palace spokesman Harry Roque.As of Saturday, the Department of Health reported 12,305 coronavirus infection cases in the Philippines, which includes 231 police force personnel, with 2,561 recoveries and 817 deaths.
Thousands have been arrested for violating quarantine rules. The nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 15 and the Metro Manila area has emerged as a virus hotspot.