Metro Manila’s police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas should be disciplined for his flagrant violation of the Philippines’ strict quarantine and lockdown regulations. His superiors should not allow Sinas to play this double standard game, where he celebrates his birthday with friends all around like there’s no pandemic, but the ordinary people of Metro Manila face tight restrictions enforced by his officers, whose disproportionate strictness has resulted in rights abuses. “Do as I say, not as I do” is not a viable policing strategy in a pandemic. By flouting these regulations, Sinas recklessly endangered his friends and subordinates at the party and damaged the moral authority of the Philippine National Police to act as a leading agency addressing the Covid-19 crisis.
Worse, once Sinas’ irresponsible behavior was revealed, he sought to deny his action and retaliated against the reporter who broke the story about the birthday party. The National Capital Region Police Office’s first action was to remove Rappler reporter Rambo Talabong from the NCRPO’s Viber message group. Such vindictive retaliation violates press freedom and the public’s right to know and should be reversed by reinstating Rappler in the Viber group.
Responding to a public health emergency means all Filipinos should cooperate with officials, but it also imposes a burden on those officials to be exemplars of the conduct they expect from the citizenry. Maj. Gen. Sinas abysmally failed that test and he should be publicly disciplined for his actions.
Deputy Asia Director
Human Rights Watch
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