National Capital Region Police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas has been named as the new chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Monday.
President Rodrigo Duterte appointed the controversial officer as the 25th chief of the PNP, replacing Gen. Camilo Cascolan. who will reach the mandatory retirement age on Tuesday after only serving for over a month.
Sinas became controversial over the mañanita on May 8 to mark his birthday, which allegedly violated the ban on mass gatherings and the social distancing rules amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Calls for his resignation mounted in May for violating restrictions.
He and his subordinates were charged for the surprise birthday party.
Despite the controversy, the President said he would not remove Sinas from his post, saying it was not his fault that his subordinates serenaded him on his birthday.
Sinas was director of the Central Visayas’ regional police office in Cebu City from July 2018 until January this year, when he was appointed head of the National Capital Region Police Office.
His mandatory retirement is on May 2021, when he turns 56.
Asked for Duterte’s reason for appointing Sinas, Roque said it was “presidential prerogative”.
“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,” he said.
Roque assured that Duterte looked into Sinas’ track record and contribution to the administration’s aggressive anti-illegal drugs campaign.
He described Sinas as an “anti-drug crusader”.
He said Duterte’s marching order to Sinas was to continue the government’s campaign against illegal drugs and ensuring that the country is a safe place to live in.
“Continue the war on drugs and continue the gains we acquired in the field of peace and order which was proven by the Gallup poll wherein the Philippines was ranked as number 12 safest country in the world,” he said.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año agreed with Roque that the President had “absolute prerogative” to appoint the PNP chief from among the current PNP Generals.
“Police Maj. Gen. Sinas is qualified for the position. I expect Gen. Sinas to lead the PNP with intensity in the fight against illegal drugs, criminalities (sic), extremists and communist bandits/terrorists," he said.
Año also said Sinas must “set the standards on the performance and discipline making every policeman counts while leaving no room for scalawags”.
Sinas, who hails from Butuan City, is an alumnus of the Philippine Military Academy Hinirang Class of 1987.
Before his appointment as Metro Manila police chief in October 2019, he also served as director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO 7), deputy regional director for administration of the
PRO 12 (Soccsksargen), and director of the PNP Crime Laboratory.
“Let’s give him a chance and he has six months to prove his worth. Let’s see if after six months he will inspire people,” Roque added.
He also gave assurances Sinas' appointment would not free him from charges for violating quarantine protocols, but stopped short of saying what the sanctions might be.
Sinas is facing criminal charges over his birthday celebration in May, which was held despite the prohibition against mass gatherings, including parties, under the enhanced community quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Sinas later apologized to the public but claimed that some of the photos circulating online were edited and grabbed from old posts.
Cascolan, meanwhile, said he was thankful for the opportunity to serve the people despite having only a more than two-month stint.
"At least we have done so much for two months, we have proven a lot… I am happy because I was given the chance and never expected it because it was just two months away from my retirement,”
Cascolan told reporters in a press briefing in Camp Crame.
He also shrugged off rumors that he would be heading to the Bureau of Customs after his retirement on Tuesday.
Asked what could he consider as his legacy, he said it was the localization program for the policemen or assigning them nearer to their areas of residence.
Based on the latest data from the PNP, 357,069 suspects were arrested, 7,987 were killed and 1,290,768 surrendered in 234,036 anti-illegal drug operations conducted from July 2016.
Cascolan is the fourth member of PMA Class 1986 to be appointed as Chief PNP. The first was now Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, Oscar Albayalde, and Archie Gamboa.
Sinas not off the hook over mañanita despite appointment to top PNP
Meanwhile, dela Rosa considered a good choice the appointment of Sinas who, he said, "has a proven track record. Nobody is perfect in this world."
Also in the Senate, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Sinas, barring any controversy that got him entangled in the past, was a good choice for the top PNP post.
"I’ve known him as a performer, always mission-oriented and undoubtedly will lead the police institution the way it should be led," said Lacson.
But Sen. Risa Hontiveros said Duterte could have made a more meritorious choice for PNP chief.
"While Debold Sinas was my late husband’s underclassman and an old friend, unfortunately, the poor manner in which the PNP has acted on the waves of violence as well as minimized the risks of the
coronavirus pandemic under his previous commands betrays his level of competence for this new role," Hontiveros said.
In the House, two members of the majority bloc urged Sinas' critics to give him a chance.
Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon said the President’s exercise of prerogative and authority to appoint the Chief of the Philippine National Police is enough to justify the appointment.
"I’ve had the chance to work with General Sinas at the National Capital Region Police Office Regional Advisory Council and he showed commitment in pursuing the Performance Governance System
in the NCRPO. He was proactive in ensuring that the NCRPO was not only compliant, but proficient. He had good rapport with the stakeholders as shown by the cooperation of the business community in the reform initiatives undertaken under the PGS," said Biazon, vice chair of the House committee on public order and safety.
But with the mañanita issue, Biazon said he would just have to show that he has learned a lesson from the lapse by giving an excellent performance as CPNP.
For his part, Ako-Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin hoped Sinas would be able to lead the police force well.
Garbin, vice chair of the House committee on justice, also said: "I ask the new leadership of the PNP, now under Police General Debold Sinas, to assure all Filipinos of their safety and security. Public
trust in the police has been shaken because of the continuing involvement of some police officers in illegal drugs, illegal gambling, red-tagging, and rape."
But the Makabayan Bloc in the House chided the appointment of what the group described as the mañanita general.
One of the group's members, Rep. Ferdinand Gaite of Bayan Muna said "competence and integrity really has nothing to do in Pres. Duterte's appointments, but is all about notoriety and absolute loyalty to the president."
"We know Gen. Sinas from his stint in Western Visayas when numerous extrajudicial killings and illegal arrests were rampant. Of course, he is also well known for breaking numerous quarantine protocols just to have a mañanita for his birthday," Gaite said.
Gaite also urged the public to be "extra vigilant" now with Sinas as the new PNP chief.
"It was under his command that hundreds were arrested supposedly for violating quarantine rules, rules that he himself violated but got off scot-free and even rewarded."
Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, for her part, shared Gaite's view, adding that "nothing to expect but more human rights violations" under Sinas' watch.
"It was during the time of Maj. Gen. Sinas as regional director of Central Visayas police office when killings of activists, farmers and human rights defenders were rampant in the region," Castro said.
For human rights group Karapatan, Sinas' appointment was not a surprise.
Karapatan said Duterte had a clear penchant for rewarding the most notorious of human rights violators among his minions with rank promotions as well as higher budgets for their agencies.
“This is explicit in the marching orders for Sinas’ appointment: to continue the sham and bloody drug war and the repression of critics and activists,” Karapatan said in a statement.
Karapatan said it had nothing but indignation and disgust for Sinas’ appointment.