PNP chief says initial assessment shows probable cause to file raps
MANILA (4TH UPDATE) -- Criminal charges will be filed against Metro Manila's police chief who drew flak on social media for celebrating his birthday despite a ban on public gatherings during the COVID-19 lockdown, Malacañang said Thursday.
Charges against Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas and other senior police officials who attended the gathering pertain to supposed violation of quarantine protocols, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.
"...A criminal case is now being readied to be filed tomorrow against NCRPO Chief Debold Sinas, along with other senior police officials who attended the gathering," Roque said.
The Palace spokesman said he was informed of the case during a phone conversation with Philippine National Police chief Gen. Archie Gamboa on Thursday.
PNP Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac confirmed the looming charges to be filed by the PNP Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS).
"Filing of charges will be done by the IAS (Internal Affairs Service), which is now finalizing its investigation," he said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
According to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, violation of quarantine and social distancing rules carry penalties of up to 2 months in prison and/or a fine of P10,000 to P1 million.
Earlier, Roque said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea ordered the PNP-IAS to forward the results of the probe to the Palace.
Gamboa, in a separate statement, said an initial assessment showed there is probable cause to file charges against Sinas and other police officials.
"Per initial assessment, there is probable cause for the filing of criminal and administrative charges in relation to quarantine health protocols. IAS personnel are now in NCRPO (National Capital Region Police Office) gathering affidavits as support documents to file these cases,” he said.
On the administrative charges, Roque said clearance from the President is needed before these are filed against Sinas since he is a presidential appointee.
"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," Roque said.
Sinas on Thursday apologized for the May 8 celebration, which he described as a mañanita or early birthday serenade.
"I apologize for what transpired during my birthday that caused anxiety to the public," he said.
He said some of the photos that circulated online were "edited and grabbed from old posts."
The photos, published on the Facebook page of the Metro Manila Police, showed officers giving Sinas roses and cakes during the event. Photos also showed Sinas mingling at a table, and guests lined up at buffet tables.