The controversial birthday gathering of the chief of the National Capital Region Police Office amid an imposed lockdown to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus landed on international news outlets on Wednesday.
Major organizations like The New York Times, Gulf News and The Straits Times picked up the report from news wire service Reuters, which reported the order to probe NCRPO chief Major General Debold Sinas over potential quarantine violations.
It was titled “Philippines probes Manila police chief’s birthday bash amid lockdown.”
American television and radio service CBS News also reported the incident with the headline, “Senior Philippine cop’s lockdown birthday bash draws outrage.”
The report initially recalled Sinas’ words when his police officers arrested community volunteers in Marikina City and juxtaposed it with how he violated the government’s own quarantine protocols.
“They were arrested because they gathered in the streets, holding placards to protest. The idea is we are under ECQ. Even if you say you are following strict social distancing, organizing gatherings is prohibited,” the NCRPO chief said about the volunteers’ arrest.
The global coverage of the incident earned fresh condemnation from Filipinos who commented that it is not every day such birthday gatherings earn international attention.
“Not all birthday parties get reported by the New York Times. Congrats, General Sinas!” columnist and blogger Tonyo Cruz wrote as he shared NYT’s article with a clown emoji.
Another Twitter user sarcastically lauded Sinas and quipped that lots of “social climbers” might get envious of him since the cop beat them in making it to global headlines.
“Ang bongga!!! The New York Times had a piece on the birthday party-that-was-not a-birthday party-but-a-‘mañanita’ of NCR’s Police Chief Major General Debold Sinas. Galing-galing naman. Andaming maiinggit na social climbers,” he wrote.
Another Filipino took a screengrab of some of the global news outlets that reported on Sinas’ birthday gathering which she called a “clownery.”
Debold Sinas clownery going international. Big yikes! pic.twitter.com/DSYqg9R9hS
— missprecybeth (@missprecybeth) May 14, 2020
Last week, the country also earned international coverage when the National Telecommunications Commission slapped media giant ABS-CBN a cease-and-desist order following the expiration of its legislative franchise.
Investigation in place
On Wednesday, Sinas made headlines when photos of him having a birthday celebration with his subordinates circulated online despite the current ban on mass gatherings in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Participants of the supposed event also allegedly failed to practice stringent physical distancing measures despite guidelines imposed by the health department to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.
He has since apologized for the incident but latest reports indicate he might face criminal and administrative charges, according to lawyer Alfegar Triambulo, the inspector general of the Philippine National Police-Internal Affairs Service.
Despite this, Sinas will not be relieved from his post pending the investigation expected to be finished in a week.
“We will not do that (relief from post) because he has a good performance. As I have said, these are very delicate matters. If we err, it’s the Filipino people who might be put at a disadvantage,” Triambulo said.
Other police officers present in the gathering could also be held liable for violations.
Meanwhile, Sinas reiterated on Thursday morning that he was “not aware” of his subordinates’ birthday plans for him. He also stood by his claim that they “observed quarantine protocols” during the incident.
The NCRPO chief added that he will not take a leave from his work while the investigation takes place, “unless instructed by the PNP chief or the president.”
“Hintayin ko na lang results ng investigation,” he said in an interview with CNN Philippines.
There are currently 67 police officers from NCRPO that are infected with COVID-19. All of them are under quarantine.
After drawing flak from the celebration, Joint Task Force COVID-19 Shield Commander Police Lt. Guillermo Eleazar asked the public to spare the police from “insults” and “unfair generalization.”
“Our hardworking people on the ground do not deserve them,” he said in a statement.