MANILA – Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday voiced concern over the appointment of Police Gen. Debold Sinas as the country’s new top cop due to a contentious track record, which includes the spate of unsolved killings in Central Visayas in 2019.
Carlos Conde, senior researcher at the Asia division of the New York-based watchdog, said the new Philippine National Police (PNP) chief was mired in controversies, including alleged human rights abuses, that were “too serious to ignore.”
“We support the statement that he should be given a chance but again that should not prevent us from looking at his own records,” he told ANC’s “Matters of Fact.”
Conde said Sinas had not been held accountable for the string of violence that took place in Negros island when he was Central Visayas police chief from 2018 to 2019.
“There has been no accountability for these killings in Central Visayas. This is the reason why we're very concerned,” he said.
He also cited the massacre of 9 sugarcane workers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental on October 2018, which remains unsolved.
He also alleged that Sinas had not shown willingness to investigate killings linked to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“Keep in mind, Sinas is not cooperative in institutions in Central Visayas when it comes to investigating not just the EJKs there but also the drug war,” he said.
In an August 2019 Senate hearing, Sinas denied police were involved in such incidents.
As the new PNP chief, Conde urged Sinas to investigate the unsolved cases “properly”.
“He's now in the position to actually do something about these cases, about these allegations of human rights abuses, about these killings that although they may not have been perpetrated directly by the police, it is within the mandate and duty and responsibility by the police to investigate these killings,” he said.
Sinas, who was earlier thrust into national spotlight for flouting lockdown rules by holding a birthday party, took the helm of the 205,000-strong police force Tuesday.
He replaced Police Gen. Camilo Cascolan who retired from police service after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said Tuesday Sinas was facing 2 complaints for violating quarantine protocols over a mañanita incident during his birthday in May.
He is also reportedly facing another complaint for violation of domicile when he led a team of police officers in an attempt to evict a retired police officer from a police housing unit in Taguig.