Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into possible quarantine protocol violations in Metro Manila police chief Police Major General Debold Sinas’ birthday celebration last week.
Guevarra said he will instruct the NBI to investigate even as he said there is already an existing order for the bureau to investigate violations of quarantine rules.
The NBI is under the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Meanwhile, Guevarra said he has always advised the NBI “to enforce the laws fairly and uniformly.”
“An arrest is immediately effected by law enforcement agents if a person is caught in the act of committing a crime, or continues to commit a crime,” he said.
“Otherwise, a complaint has to be filed first, a preliminary investigation conducted, and charges filed in court if probable cause is found, before a warrant of arrest is issued. That is our standard procedure,” he added.
The Justice secretary said this when sought for comment on accusations that the government is unfairly enforcing the law, amid reports that ordinary citizens deemed to have violated the law are immediately arrested but that public officials, including Senator Aquilino Pimentel III and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Deputy Administrator Mocha Uson, are not.
Guevarra said the case against Pimentel in connection with his alleged breach of quarantine is under preliminary investigation, and that local government officials have been summoned to explain alleged protocol violations.
“I will instruct the NBI to include more recent cases of alleged quarantine violations by some personalities, if the NBI is not looking into these cases as yet,” Guevarra said.
“My instruction is to look into all reported cases of non-cooperation/violation of quarantine protocols, regardless of who is involved. The NBI knows who these people are,” he also said.
Sinas held a birthday celebration last May 8 despite strict rules on physical distancing and a prohibition on mass gatherings amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Sinas also held a relief operation in Tondo, Manila in which residents allegedly did not practice proper distancing.
The Philippine National Police’s Internal Affairs Service has also been ordered to investigate the incident.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said what transpired was a mañanita or a tradition among the military and police where the subordinates greet their commander celebrating a birthday at the early break of the morning.
Ano said the gathering may not be considered as a party but it was still uncalled for amid the COVID-19 situation in the country.
“It is uncalled for, kaya nga sabi ko, dapat mag-delicadeza,” Año said.
Sinas apologized, but said some of the photos circulating online were “edited and grabbed from old posts.”
“The pictures may depict itself however it does not define the totality of what really had happened,” Sinas said.
“Nevertheless, I apologize for what transpired during my birthday that caused anxiety to the public,” he said./Stacy Ang