MANILA: Overweight members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday after the force said it was temporarily suspending a weight loss requirement for those seeking a promotion, facilitating their rise through the ranks.
“Overweight and obese police officers are now eligible for a promotion during this period,” PNP Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronaldo Olay told Arab News.
“It’s a way to recognize their sacrifices in helping address the current health crisis,” he added.
On Tuesday evening, PNP Chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar told reporters he had approved a recommendation by the Directorate of Personnel and Resource Management (DPRM) to put the body mass index (BMI) requirement on hold, citing limitations faced by officers on physical activities during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The inclusion of the BMI — a measure based on the height and weight of an individual — was a mandatory requirement to qualify for promotion in the PNP, based on a memorandum issued in December.
“We took into consideration the balance between the workload of all our personnel during the pandemic and the need for them to comply with this memorandum circular just to be promoted,” Eleazar said.
“We are in a time in which our people need care and understanding, especially the thousands of personnel who are tasked with enforcing public health safety protocols 24 hours a day,” he added.
The PNP chief stressed that the suspension was a temporary measure and that the BMI requirement would be reinstated once the situation returned to normalcy.
Obesity is an issue for several members of the 200,000-strong force, with former PNP Officer-in-Charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa saying in January 2020 that only 54 percent “were at their ideal weight, while 9 percent were obese” and the rest overweight.
Olay urged PNP personnel to “keep themselves healthy” and not become victims of “pandemic weight gain.”
“By observing the same basic health standards as the general public, they are also serving as role models to their community,” he said.
In a June 29 memorandum to Eleazar, DPRM Police Chief Maj. Gen. Rolando Hinanay informed the PNP chief of the “numerous complaints and requests for consideration” received from personnel who had been disqualified for promotion based on the BMI policy.
In one of the petitions, the complainants cited that implementing such a requirement “is detrimental and a form of discrimination to personnel who are above the normal BMI.”
Hinanay further explained that “though obesity is considered as one of the underlying comorbidities of COVID-19,” uniformed personnel are advised to gradually lose weight in order to avoid complications that may be brought by rapid weight loss.
He added, however, that the current situation in the country could prevent personnel from performing outdoor physical activities and achieving their ideal BMI.
The DPRM chief recommended a review of the policy to address concerns of the PNP force and the welfare of its personnel.