"No, General Gamboa, we do not understand. We are gobsmacked."
We are normally not so blunt, but today we feel compelled to ask: What is wrong with the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP)?
In the wake of the scandalous and possibly illegal behavior exhibited by Metro Mania police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa says the disgraced officer will stay on the job because he is difficult to replace.
Sinas and 18 others were charged Friday for violating quarantine protocols by participating in a mass gathering for his 55th birthday at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Photographic evidence of his wrongdoing was plastered all over the official Facebook page of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), which Sinas heads, before someone realized how incriminating the images were and took them down—but not before these were widely shared by others on social media.
The photos showed Sinas and his guests violating a ban on mass and social gatherings, guidelines on physical distancing and a liquor ban in a celebration in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City held at 5 a.m.
In one photo, Sinas was not wearing a mask after blowing out a candle of one of three birthday cakes.
Others showed Sinas mingling at a table while others lined up at a buffet table. Alcoholic beverages were available, despite a liquor ban.
Gamboa at first defended Sinas, denying that the incident was really a party—just a “breakfast serenade,” he said--but later ordered an investigation when he realized there was no denying that quarantine protocols had been blatantly flouted.
But now, it seems, the PNP chief is at it again, making apologies for keeping his errant subordinate on the job.
“I hope the public would understand because we're in an emergency situation,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English. “If we replace him, we will never know. He's hard to replace because he has so many COVID-19 programs.”
No, sir, we do not understand. We are gobsmacked.
Does the PNP chief believe he has so much power under this emergency that he is no longer answerable to the people who pay his salary? Is he so tone-deaf to the needs of the times that he will stick by his golden birthday boy? Does he not realize that Sinas’s violations of the quarantine protocols he is supposed to enforce make him the person least qualified to run his “so many COVID-19 programs”?
Does he even understand that the credibility of the PNP among the public to enforce quarantine regulations has been seriously damaged—and will continue to be hurt—by keeping Sinas on the job? After all, how can any Metro Manila police officer credibly enforce rules against mass gatherings—say, a swim party inside a private condominium--when we all know his boss will party at a police compound just because he thinks he can get away with it?