MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Metro Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas will remain in his post as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic, the chief of Philippine National Police said Monday, even after Sinas' supposed violations of quarantine measures.
Sinas and 18 others were charged Friday for allegedly violating pandemic protocols by allowing and participating in a mass gathering for his birthday.
"Yes. I hope the public would understand kasi nandito tayo sa emergency situation. Pag palitan mo siya, we will never know. Napakahirap palitan dahil ang dami niyang programa in relation to COVID," PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo when asked if Sinas would remain in his position.
(Yes. I hope the public would understand because we're in an emergency situation. If we replace him, we will never know. He's hard to replace because he has so many COVID-19 programs.)
Sinas also put a stop to illegal gambling when he took over the Metro Manila police, he added.
PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said Sinas keeping his position was important to maintain "continuity" in the police force's programs.
“Sa normal, pag may kontrobersiya, sisibakin agad. Pero sa panahon ngayon, kinakailangan ng continuity sa mga programa. Si General Sinas ang nakakaalam talaga. Kinakailangan namin ang kanyang paglilingkod,” he told reporters.
(When everything's normal, if there's controversy, a policeman will be relieved immediately. But right now, we need continuity in our programs. General Sinas has wide knowledge, we need his service.)
Sinas is facing administrative charges of less grave neglect of duty and less grave misconduct, which may be upgraded in the course of trial, Gamboa said.
The administrative cases against the Metro Manila police chief have been forwarded to Malacañang for clearance of investigation, he added. The charges carry a maximum sanction of 60-day suspension, according to the PNP.
Malacañang said it was still waiting for the results of the PNP-Internal Affairs Service's investigation on the matter and declined to comment.
"Please understand. I would rather not give comment on that para wala naman pong pre-judgment (so there's no pre-judgment) on the part of the Palace," Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual press briefing.
Among those charged with Sinas was Col. Rodel Pastor, who was recently named as the new acting chief of the Personnel and Records Management Division of the National Capital Region Police Office.
The shake-up in the Metro Manila police force included some officers who were relieved before from their posts, such as Col. Hector Grijaldo Jr., who was removed as Cebu City police chief for hitting subordinates on the head; Col. Bernard Yang, who was axed in February for his supposed involvement in illegal gambling, and Col. Raul Tacaca who was relieved as Negros Oriental police chief last year following a spate of killings in the province.
Gamboa said the reshuffle was made after some officers were transferred to Camp Crame for the launch of a new recruitment service.
"We have always taken care of their career. Pag inalis sila sa isang puwesto, ang pupuntahan nila either parallel o lateral entry, or 'yung iba may promotion," he said.
Gamboa disclosed though that Yang's cases were nullified, while Grijaldo will continue to face charges against him in Central Visayas.
COVID-19 CASES AMONG PNP PERSONNEL
As of posting, the PNP has 234 cases of COVID-19, with 4 deaths and 69 recoveries, according to Gamboa. Half of the patients are from the Metro Manila Police because they are the "most exposed" to the virus as they guard quarantine checkpoints, he said.
CRIME RATES DOWN
Overall crime rate in the country dropped by 61 percent since the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine in March, Banac said.
The PNP has also recorded a total of 162,000 quarantine violators nationwide during the ECQ, he added.
Some 25,000 were charged for violating curfew, and 105,000 were issued warnings.
Last month, the Commission on Human Rights reported some 200 cases of abuses related to the ECQ.
The PNP is also looking into acts of abuse among its ranks, Banac said.
--With reports from Angel Movido, ABS-CBN News