MANILA — The pendency of complaints against newly installed Philippine National Police Chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas does not disqualify him from being promoted based on existing laws governing the police, Civil Service Commissioner Aileen Lizada said Tuesday.
“The institution of a criminal action or complaint against a police officer shall not be a bar to promotion,” she said, citing Republic Act 9708 which amended the provisions of the Philippine National Police Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998 (RA 8551) and the DILG Act of 1990 (RA 6975).
Like other civil servants, police facing complaints are “presumed innocent and may qualify for promotion,” she added.
The same law however provides that a finding of probable cause will disqualify a police officer from promotion regardless of any challenge against the finding.
Probable cause, in this context, refers to a finding by prosecutors that there is enough basis to charge those whom they believe to have committed the crime as defined by law and should be held for trial.
The exception to this is, if 2 years has passed and the case remains unresolved, that police officer may still be promoted.
Sinas, who took over as head of the country’s police force on Tuesday, is facing 2 complaints for violating quarantine protocols over a mañanita incident during his birthday in May, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed on Tuesday.
One complaint was filed by the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service before the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office against Sinas and 18 others present in the mañanita for violating Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act and a Taguig City ordinance.
The other one, according to Guevarra, was filed by the National Bureau of Investigation at the Department of Justice main office in Padre Faura, after the justice chief himself ordered a probe into the incident.
Sinas 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.
All 3 complaints have not yet been resolved and so there is yet no finding of probable cause.
The law is however silent once there is a finding of probable cause to file criminal charges in court but the appointment has already been made.
It only recalls the appointment once the police officer is convicted of a crime.
“In the event he or she is held guilty of the crime by final judgment, said promotion shall be recalled without prejudice to the imposition of the appropriate penalties under applicable laws, rules and regulations,” RA 9708 said.
Under the same law, a police officer may only be ineligible for promotion while a complaint is pending in cases of crimes punishable by reclusion perpetua (up to 40 years in prison) or life imprisonment, including cases of human rights violations.
The penalty for violation of quarantine protocols is not as severe.
But existing police laws however impose a weight requirement on police officers to be eligible for promotion.
RA 6975 requires that a police officer “must weigh not more or less than five kilograms (5 kg.) of the standard weight corresponding to his or her height, age, and sex” or otherwise known as the body-mass index (BMI).
That requirement remained unchanged under RA 8551 and RA 9708 which amended it.
Sinas admitted to being obese in January this year as he spearheaded a months-long weight loss program, following then-PNP Chief Archie Gamboa’s directive for police officers to get fit.
Gamboa initially warned obese cops that they would most likely not get promoted but he later on relaxed the requirement to avoid “abrupt reduction of weight.”
Instead of a maximum weight of 159 pounds for a person 5 feet and six inches tall, PNP allowed up to 170 pounds.
It was later revealed that Gamboa himself was overweight but within the expanded limit.
No additional information was readily available on the relaxed weight metrics and on Sinas’ weight.
It is not immediately clear if Sinas’ pending criminal complaints nor his weight played a factor in his appointment.
“Presidential appointments are really very executive in character. It is a prerogative of the President. And he need not make any explanation for his appointment,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said, when asked why Sinas was chosen over other high-ranking officials.
“Nonetheless, tiningnan siyempre ni Presidente ‘yung track record ng kanyang appointee. At matagal nang sinasabi ni Presidente na talagang si bagong PNP chief Sinas ay napakalaki ng naitulong sa kaniyang war on drugs,” he added.
But human rights groups have raised concerns over Sinas’ track record as NCRPO chief, as regional director in Central Visayas and other previous roles.
“During his stint as Central Visayas police chief from mid-2018 to late 2019, Cebu saw hundreds of drug-related extrajudicial killings by the police and armed vigilantes – virtually none of which were resolved. Under his watch, furthermore, 14 farmers were killed in Negros Oriental province in March 2019,” Amnesty International said.
“Sinas’ appointment to the highest police post is the epitome of impunity. Just this year, he violated quarantine protocols for holding a birthday mañanita and was not sanctioned under the law. Meanwhile, Metro Manila police – of which Sinas was the chief – have arrested thousands for allegedly violating quarantine guidelines,” it added.
Karapatan blamed Sinas for leading “illegal raids” in the offices of progressive groups in Manila and Bacolod towards the latter part of 2019, based on a search warrant issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos Villavert just a day after Sinas visited her in her chambers. Photos of the meeting were posted on Facebook.
The raids led to the arrest of around 60 activists, including Reina Mae Nasino who gave birth and lost her child, baby River, in jail.
“Karapatan has nothing but indignation and disgust for Sinas’ appointment. The messages being sent are clear as day: follow the president’s orders and you will be protected and promoted, and that this fascist regime is gearing up for an intensified crackdown on dissent and assault on human rights by appointing one of its most loyal butchers as the country’s top cop,” the rights groups alliance said.
The Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, struck a more optimistic tone.
“CHR hopes that, under the new leadership, PNP will affirm the government’s commitments to uphold justice and human rights by pursuing every case of human rights violation. We cannot overemphasize the role of our law enforcers in making perpetrators accountable for their offenses,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.
“And, to this end, we also look forward to concrete actions from the PNP in realizing openness and genuine cooperation in investigating said human rights violations—even in cases when State officers and agents are allegedly implicated in their commission. This includes cleaning up police ranks from erring officers, as well as instilling respect for human rights in their core,” she added.