SIX months after he figured in the “mañanita” controversy that led to charges for violation of community quarantine rules, Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, National Capital Region Police chief, was named by President Duterte as chief of the Philippine National Police.
Lawmakers questioned the appointment while others said it was no surprise as Duterte is known to recycle, and even promote, allies who are involved in irregularities.
Netizens, who tagged Sinas as the “mañanita general,” asked how he could be effective in enforcing the law, particularly COVID-19 quarantine rules which he himself have violated.
Sinas will assume the top PNP post today, when Gen. Camilo Cascolan reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56. Cascolan assumed the top post only on September 2.
Sinas bested two other contenders who are more senior in rank — PNP deputy chief for administration Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar and PNP deputy chief for operation Lt. Gen. Cesar Binag. The three are all members of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1987.
Sinas was tagged “mañanita general” by netizens in May after pictures posted by his office on social media showed him and about 50 other police officials and guests gathered for the celebration his 55th birthday in Camp Bagong Diwa, NCRPO headquarters, in Taguig City.
The mañanita, a tradition in both the PNP and the military of greeting officials celebrating their birthdays, was held during the enhanced community quarantine period when mass gatherings are prohibited
During the party, a number of health protocols were violated, including the non-wearing of face masks and non-observance of physical distancing.
Police investigators have filed criminal charges against Sinas and 18 of his men before the Taguig City prosecutors office for violating Republic Act No. 1132, or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.
At the height of the controversy, Duterte said he will not sack Sinas who, he said, is an “honest” and “good” officer.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Ferdinand Gaite slammed Sinas’ appointment as PNP chief, saying “competence and integrity really have nothing to do in President Duterte’s appointments.”
The militant lawmaker said appointments under the Duterte administration “is all about notoriety and absolute loyalty to the president.”
“As things stand, young police and army officers would cozy it up with politicians so that they can also get juicy positions after some time. This glaring example of patronage politics imposes upon them that merit and competence has little or nothing to do with securing positions, what matters is who you know and not what you know,” Gaite said.
He said the public should be “extra vigilant now with Gen. Sinas as the new PNP chief because it was under his command that hundreds were arrested supposedly for violating quarantine rules, rules that he, himself, violated but got off scot-free and even rewarded.”
Gaite said that while Sinas is known from his stint in Western Visayas when numerous extrajudicial killings and illegal arrests were rampant, “he is also well known for breaking numerous quarantine protocols just to have a mañanita for his birthday.”
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Sinas’ latest appointment is no surprise because the President is known to either promote or recycle his allies involved in irregularities, instead of punishing them.
He cited as example former Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon, former Bureau of Customs chief Isidro Lapena who were have been given new posts after controversies in their agencies, and Health Secretary Francisco Duque who has been subject of resignation calls for alleged incompetence and who has repeatedly been defended by Duterte.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Sinas must reorient his men on the principles of Police Operational Procedures after the shooting incident in Cavite last Friday afternoon, wherein a husband of a Navy officer and a member of the Highway Patrol Group were killed.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, said Sinas is a good choice to lead the PNP even if the NCRPO chief despite the mañanita controversy.
“I’ve known him as a performer, always mission-oriented and undoubtedly will lead the police institution the way it should be led,” Lacson said.
“That said, the birthday mañanita 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 personal reputation,” he added.
Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon said Sinas has to show that “he has learned a lesson from the lapse by giving an excellent performance as chief PNP.”
“I’ve had the chance to work with General Sinas at the National Capital Region Police Office Regional Advisory Council and he showed commitment in pursuing the Performance Governance System in the NCRPO. He was proactive in ensuring that the NCRPO was not only compliant, but proficient. He had good rapport with the stakeholders as shown by the cooperation of the business community in the reform initiatives undertaken under the PGS,” he said.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Sinas is “very qualified.”
Año was among those who criticized Sinas for the infraction, calling it “uncalled for,” citing the threat of COVID-19. Año has said officials should have delicadeza and should become role models.
Yesterday, Año defended the appointment of Sinas, saying: “The President has spoken, then let’s give Sinas a chance.”
Año said Sinas is well-qualified to lead the police force, noting that he went through the career PNP career ladder and was assigned to various units in the police force.
Before assuming as NCRPO chief last year, Sinas was director of the Central Visayas regional police office. Before that, he was the secretary of the Director Staff at the PNP national headquarters in Camp Crame.
Año shut down insinuations that Sinas’ designation as PNP chief would lead to demoralization in the ranks as he was rewarded the highest post in the PNP despite violating the law.
He said the “mañanita” is a “small issue” compared to the bigger organization of the Philippine National Police.
The PNP Internal Affairs Service has also initiated administrative investigation against Sinas and his men for the infraction.
Año said it is still in the stage of preliminary investigation and it has yet to go up to the court, so Sinas has no pending case based on the definition.
Año said Sinas was among three senior officials he recommended as next PNP chief.
Sources said also in the list was Eleazar, who twice lost in the race for the PNP chief already. Eleazar is due to retire in April next year, a month ahead of the retirement of Sinas.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Sinas’ appointment does not clear him from the charges. “That’s not how our laws operate,” he said.
He added that while the President does not need to explain his reasons or defend his choice of new PNP chief, Duterte considered Sinas’ track record and his contributions of the administration’s war against illegal drugs.
He also said the President believes Sinas will be effective in his new designation.
Roque also said that an appointment to a post is a matter of trust and confidence, and Sinas “for the moment, (is) the most trusted by the President. So let’s leave it at that.”
Asked about the marching orders of the President to the new PNP chief, Roque said Duterte wanted Sinas to continue the war on drugs and to sustain the gains in the peace and order that his predecessors had achieved and programs that had been started. — With Jocelyn Montemayor, Raymond Africa, and Wendell Vigilia