Sinas the bold
"Such is the meaning of power and impunity in this country."
When is a birthday celebration not a party but a gathering of people so heady with entitlement, believing they can flout the very rules they are mandated to enforce?
There were cake, flowers, songs, food, and alcohol. There were no balloons and confetti, but there were tarpaulins. And clowns masquerading as police officials.
The Philippine National Police’s chief for Metro Manila, Debold Sinas, marked his birthday on Friday. It was, he said, an extraordinary day. "May 8 is the day when God aggrandize [sic] his love for me and my family for it is the day when I was born. That day, I was blessed and honored that another year has been added to my life," Sinas said.
And indeed his men surprised him with a dawn serenade. Pictures that circulated online show tables filled with well-wishers, food served buffet style, and happy smiles for pictures. Masks appeared to be an optional accessory, and alcohol – not the disinfecting kind, but the kind that is banned during this crucial time – was flowing.
All this happened while Metro Manila was under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
For Sinas to mark his birthday in merrymaking amid the persistent threat of the virus, his visitors violating numerous lockdown protocols that they are tasked to enforce on the rest of us, is an egregious offense. After he initially claimed there was no party, he offered a belated apology, uttered simply because he was outed.
This is clearly inadequate. Sinas must resign if he has any decency left in him. Or he should be fired. Then next year, he can celebrate his birthday however he wants—assuming that the quarantine conditions have finally been lifted.
Astoundingly, Sinas’ boss, PNP Chief Archie Gamboa, said he found nothing wrong with the gathering. There was no violation, he said. It was not even a party–it was just a “mañanita”–a breakfast serenade. They observed social distancing measures, he insisted.
The pictures make a liar out of Gamboa, too.
The PNP chief’s behavior—blindly defending his errant subordinate based on nothing but his say-so—is shameful, to say the least.
Ordinary folk who go out without masks or are out after curfew window run the risk of being beaten, berated or thrown into detention. One former soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder was even shot dead by a policeman for being out on the street.
Those who lost loved ones–even if they did not die of COVID-19–cannot even grieve in public wakes and funerals, in strict observance of the quarantine.
But of course, high-ranking police officials and their subordinates can congregate and make merry as they please. Such is the meaning of power and impunity in this country.
We remember feeling this outraged, when just a few weeks ago, a senator who had tested positive for coronavirus accompanied his wife to the hospital, risking the health of everybody they came into contact with. The public outrage has since subsided, but that has done nothing to lessen the seriousness of his thoughtless behavior.
Will we ever see some accountability?
Research and testing are ongoing for a cure for COVID-19. In the future, we will take comfort in the existence of a vaccine with which we can protect ourselves and our loved ones. Alas, there is no cure for what afflicts those who believe they are above the law, simply because it is their job to enforce it.
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