MANILA (UPDATE)— The head of the Metro Manila police, which is overseeing the lockdown of 12 million people to prevent the spread of COVID-19, was charged Friday after allegedly violating pandemic protocols when he allowed and participated in a mass gathering.
The Philippine National Police said it has filed administrative charges like Less Grave Neglect of Duty and Less Grave Misconduct against National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas and 18 other cops.
The charge of less grave misconduct and less grave neglect of duty carry a maximum sanction of 60-day suspension, according to the PNP.
The PNP Internal Affairs Service said charges of violating Republic Act No. 11332 or "Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases" and city ordinance were also filed against Sinas and 18 other police officers.
The PNP-IAS identified the 18 as Police Brig. Gen. Nicolas Bathan, Police Brig. Gen. Florendo Quibuyen, Police Brig. Gen. Florencio Ortilla, Police Brig. Gen. Gerry Galvan, Police Brig. Gen. Ildebrandy Usana, Police Col. Eliseo Tanding, Police Col. Remus Medina, Police Col. Raul Tacaca, Police Col. Emmanuel Peralta, Police Col. Tomas Frias, Police Col. Rodel Pastor, Police Col. Ferdinand Ortega, Police Col. Manuel Abrugena, Police Lt. Col. Orlando Carag, Police Maj. Epream Paguyod, Police Maj. Britz Sales, Police Cpl. Police Cpl. Abdumar Bakil and Police Cpl. Bernie Lazaga.
Sinas earlier denied that he had a birthday party last May 8, and instead had a "mañanita," a police and military tradition in which well-wishers visit their commander before dawn.
Photos shared by the NCRPO on Facebook, some of which had been deleted, showed officers giving Sinas roses and cakes during the gathering. The official was also photographed mingling at a table while others lined up at buffet meals.
Sinas said his men wore masks and gloves during their visit and that he gave them packed lunches. He also however claimed other photos circulating online were fake.
Malacañang earlier said criminal charges will be filed against Sinas, who drew flak on social media for celebrating his birthday despite a ban on public gatherings during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, whose agency oversees the PNP, said the incident was "a big no-no" under lockdown rules.
PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa said Tuesday he did not believe there was a violation in the gathering because according to Sinas, physical distancing was observed.
"'Yong ginawa niyang programa kasi parang in-encourage niya lahat ng kanyang personnel, even down to the PCP (police community precinct), na magbigay ng ayuda as part of his celebration," he said.
(What he did was encourage his personnel, even down to the PCP, to give aid as part pf his celebration.)
- With reports from Raffy Santos, Zhander Cayabyab and Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News