PHILIPPINE police were readying charges against Metro Manila’s police chief for violating lockdown rules when he celebrated his birthday with friends amid a lockdown meant to contain a coronavirus pandemic, the presidential palace said on Thursday.
“The PNP is also getting clearance from the Office of the President regarding the filing of administrative charges in violation of quarantine rules against the alleged violators,” presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque said in a statement.
He was referring to National Capital Region police chief Debold M. Sinas and his well-wishers.
The clearance was needed because Mr. Sinas and the senior police officials at his birthday are presidential appointees, Mr. Roque said.
Mass gatherings are prohibited and physical distancing must be observed during the pandemic.
Police were finalizing the charges against Mr. Sinas, at least two one-star generals and members of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) command group in connection with the birthday bash, spokesman Brigadier General Bernard Banac said in a Viber message yesterday.
“The filing of charges will be done by the Internal Affairs Service (IAS), which is now finalizing its investigation,” he said.
The charges were likely to be filed at the Taguig Prosecutor’s Office on Friday, IAS Inspector General Alfegar Triambulo said by telephone.
Police would use photographs taken during the event as their main evidence, he said.
The pictures, which were uploaded on the NCRPO’s Facebook page but later taken down, had been authenticated by police officers who attended the event.
Mr. Roque said Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea had separately ordered a probe by the Philippine National Police Internal Affairs Services.
Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra earlier said the National Bureau of Investigation would probe the incident, adding that state agents must “enforce the laws fairly.”
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año had called the event “uncalled for,” adding that government officials should observe “delicadeza.”
Mr. Año, who supervises the police, said he would leave it up to the Philippine National Police to investigate the event and find out if violations had been committed.
The PNP in a statement on Wednesday said police chief General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa had ordered the inspector general of the Internal Affairs Service to investigate alleged violations of quarantine protocols.
Mr. Sinas has issued an apology, saying it was a “traditional mañanita” conducted by some officers and the accommodation was done “with all cautiousness.” He said he never meant to disobey any quarantine protocols on the coronavirus. — GMC and Emmanuel Tupas, Philippine Star