How Duterte contradicted his ‘law is law’ stance in latest national address

May 20, 2020 - 3:17 PM
rodrigo duterte on televised may 19 address
President Rodrigo Duterte during his late-night national address on May 19 on Facebook (Presidential Communications Operations Office/Released)

President Rodrigo Duterte contradicted himself after he sided with embattled Metro Manila Police Major General Debold Sinas and then ordered to uphold the law during his televised speech late Tuesday.

National Capital Region’s top cop last week made headlines locally and internationally when he held a mañanita or “a police and military tradition in which well-wishers visit their commander before dawn” for his 55th birthday.

This event allegedly violated the government’s own strict prohibition against any social gathering. 

NCR was still under enhanced community quarantine during the event, wherein on-site work, classes and other types of gatherings are banned to limit physical movement and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country.  

In his latest national address, Duterte announced that Sinas will keep his position because he is “a good officer” and that he is “honest,” despite his alleged violations of quarantine protocols he was mandated to enforce.  

Itong kaso ni SinasGeneral Sinas ng sa National Capital Region Commander… Ako ‘yung ayaw na malipat siya. He is a good officer, he’s an honest one, and hindi niya kasalanan kung may — may magharana sa kanya sa birthday niya,” Duterte said. 

He argued that Sinas cannot be fired because he needed him in the police force.  

Pinag-aralan ko ‘yung merits at saka demerits, eh kailangan ko ‘yung tao. Mas kailangan ko iyong tao dito sa trabaho niyaMarami ‘yan silang… They are all competent. But you know seniority. It is his time to be there and I do not believe in just firing him because kinantahan siya ng ‘Happy Birthday,’” Duterte said.  

Duterte also defended Sinas and his subordinates against criticisms about their non-usage of face masks.   

At kung ‘yun namang sabi na nakikita hindi naka-mask, eh siyempre may mga meryenda ‘yan, may pagkainAlang-alang naman kainin nila pati ‘yung mask. ‘Di tanggalin talaga nilaKainan iyon eh. Maski akokita ka noong birthday akowalang kumanta sa akin. Ako lang mag-isa,” he said.  

‘Law is law’

The chief executive then made a confusing remark about upholding the law in Sinas case.

“Sabi mo, ‘the law is the law.’ Well, akin na iyon. It’s my responsibility. But I will not order his transfer. He stays there until further orders,” Duterte said. 

Earlier in the same national address, he also mentioned the same “law is the law” remark when he threatened quarantine violators who are not police officers.  

“At sinabi ko sa inyo hindi kayo—hindi ko kayo papatawarin ‘pag nagkamali kayo ditoSo the law is the law is the law. A rule is a rule is a rule and you—when you begin to mess up with the law, talagang ginagarantiya ko sa inyo na makukulong talaga kayo,” he said.  

Two different remarks  

Filipinos who watched Duterte’s late-night address or monitored it on social media noted how the president contradicted himself in his own speech.  

Some social media users shared juxtaposed photos of Duterte’s reminder to uphold the rule of law and his arguments to defend Sinas. 

Another Twitter user perceived that Duterte’s words are telling that enforcing the law does not apply to his “friends.” 

“Law is law unless you’re friend with the ones who rule talaga,” the user said. 

Another online user quipped that the Duterte administration implemented all types of “mass” except mass testing.  

A quick recap of alleged violations  

The NCRPO Public Information Office initially shared a photo album of the event on Facebook on May 8, which was eventually deleted after it drew flak on the platform.  

The photos, which several social media users managed to screenshot and share copies of, showed the police officers wearing the requisite face mask. However, they were standing close to each in most photos, thus not observing social distancing protocols. 

(Screenshot by Interaksyon)

Some of the photos also showed a box of a brand of liquor, which waalso banned in some cities during the ECQ period. 

The birthday gathering was held at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Taguig City did not impose a liquor ban although its city government strictly prohibited the drinking of alcohol in convenience stores and other establishments allowed to operate under the ECQ, according to reports. 

The Philippine National Police initially defended Sinas, and then later changed tune that criminal raps were being readied to be filed against the top police officer.  

Due to the wave of criticisms, Sinas issued an apology, however, he claimed that some of the photos posted by the NCRPO page were edited despite being uploaded by his office in the first place.  

Blogger Tonyo Cruz enumerated the protocols Sinas and his subordinates purportedly violated during the birthday fete.

GMA reporter Atom Araullo also challenged Sinas’ claim of the photos being edited.  

Sinas stays as NCRPO chief

On Monday, Philippine National Police chief General Archie Gamboa also said Sinas will keep his post saying he is “hard to replace” since he is in charge of COVID-19 related programs crucial to the health crisis.

“Pag palitan mo siya, we will never know. Napakahirap palitan dahil ang dami niyang programa in terms, in relation sa COVID,” Gamboa said in an interview with dzMM where he also appealed for public understanding.

Meanwhile, after learning of the president’s sentiments, Sinas on Wednesday expressed his gratitude to Duterte.

“First, I’d like to thank the President for the trust and confidence. Thank you po, Mr. President at narecognize niyo po ako… ako po ay talagang natutuwa na the President has recognized our effort,” Sinas was quoted as saying to reporters.

“‘Yung iba kung nagkamali man, okay lang, tuloy lang ang trabaho. Ang guidance naman ni President, tuloy ang trabaho at ipagpatuloy ang magandang gawain. ‘Yun po ang gagawin namin,” he added.