The Philippine National Police's Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS) on Friday filed a criminal complaint against Metro Manila police chief Police Major General Debold Sinas and 18 other police officers and men over his recent birthday celebration.
The IAS filed a complaint for violation of Republic Act No. 11332 or the law on the mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases and health events of public concern as well as for violation of Taguig City's ordinance requiring the wearing of face masks and physical distancing.
The complaint was filed before the Taguig Prosecutor's Office. It is a prosecutor's duty to determine whether or not to file charges in court.
Drawing public criticism, Sinas and the other officers celebrated the official's birthday through a "mañanita" last May 8 despite a strict prohibition on mass gatherings during the enhanced community quarantine, a rule that is implemented primarily by law enforcement.
The National Capital Region Police Office chief has since apologized but claimed social distancing was observed during the event. He also claimed that some of the pictures that circulated online were grabbed from old posts.
Sinas earlier said he won't be taking a leave from his post unless ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte or PNP chief Police General Archie Francisco Gamboa.
The IAS investigated the incident upon orders of Gamboa.
Among other prohibited acts, RA 11332 penalizes the "non-cooperation of persons and entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern."
Any person found to have violated this law will, upon conviction, suffer the penalty of a fine of P20,000 to P50,000 and/or imprisonment of one to six months.
The Department of Justice earlier said people who violate this law may be arrested even if they would not seriously disobey or resist authorities.
"That is how the law stands, and the reasoning behind it seems pretty straightforward: in times of a health event of a public concern, an unfounded insistence to act in a way that imperils our collective health can be criminally sanctioned," Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said last March. — RSJ, GMA News