Controversial general is Duterte’s pick as Philippines’ new police chief

Controversial general is Duterte’s pick as Philippines’ new police chief
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a meeting at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines. (AP)
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Updated 09 November 2020

Controversial general is Duterte’s pick as Philippines’ new police chief

Controversial general is Duterte’s pick as Philippines’ new police chief
  • Sinas’ appointment to top post “matter of trust and confidence,” presidential spokesperson says

MANILA: A controversial general who drew public ire after holding a birthday party amid a COVID-19 lockdown has been appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as the new chief of the Philippines National Police (PNP).

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced Maj. General Debold Sinas’ appointment as the head of the country’s 219,000-strong police force during a regular press briefing in Malacanang on Monday.

Roque said Sinas, who is currently the Metro Manila police chief, will formally assume the PNP’s top post on Tuesday, replacing Gen. Camilo Cascolan who has reached retirement age.

Following the announcement, many were quick to question the selection process for the PNP chief’s post and the qualities which made Sinas the right choice. 

Roque, however, pointed out that “presidential appointments are really very executive in character.”  
“It is a prerogative of the president, and he need not make any explanation for his appointment.

Nonetheless, he considered the track record of his appointee, and he has long said that newly designated PNP chief Sinas has made a very big contribution to the war on drugs, he said.

Roque added that Sinas’ “appointment to the post is a matter of trust and confidence” and that Sinas is, “for the moment, the most trusted by the president.”

Sinas became the subject of widespread criticism after photos of his pre-dawn birthday bash, on May 8  went viral on the police force’s official Facebook page, while the entire National Capital Region (NCR) was under lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Some of the images showed police officers giving red roses to Sinas as part of the “mananita” or birthday serenade. 

Another picture showed the general seated at a table with six other people. Nobody was wearing face masks, while an investigation revealed that there were about 50 people at the party.

The incident prompted the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) to file a case against Sinas and 18 other police officers. It alleged that the party violated stringent physical distancing measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Duterte, at the time, had agreed that Sinas’ birthday bash was “wrong” but said that he would let the investigation team determine the course of action against the general. 

And despite the controversy, the president retained Sinas in his role, saying that his services were needed and describing him as an “honest” and “good” police officer.

Sinas has since apologized for the incident.

When asked during the press briefing whether Sinas’ appointment would absolve him of all charges, Roque said: “I don’t think so. That’s not how our laws operate.”

Meanwhile, opposition Senator Rissa Hontiveros said that the president “could have made a more meritorious choice” for PNP chief. 

“While Debold Sinas was my late husband’s underclassman and an old friend, unfortunately, the poor manner in which the PNP has acted on the waves of violence as well as minimized the risks of the coronavirus pandemic under his previous commands betrays his level of competence for this new role,” she said in a statement.

On the other hand, Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, said that “barring any controversy that Sinas got entangled with in the past, he is a good choice for the top PNP post.”

“I’ve known him as a performer, always mission-oriented and undoubtedly will lead the police institution the way it should be led. That said, the birthday mananita event was a hard lesson that I hope he has learned from, and which he will surely remember whenever he will be confronted in making decisions affecting the PNP as well as his reputation,” Lacson said.