President Rodrigo Duterte said he found nothing wrong with Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas’ participation in a “mañanita” celebration with police officers in May that broke government restrictions on mass gatherings, liquor consumption and curfew hours.

In a national address aired on Saturday, Duterte defended Sinas, whom he promoted to lead the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Nov. 9, saying the former Metro Manila police chief was not at fault for the celebration.

Duterte also said he was fully responsible for promoting Sinas, who had a track record of leading deadly anti-drug operations, which human rights groups have condemned, in Central Visayas.

“Alam mo kasi, ‘yang mañanita, it’s a religious, almost a religious ritual na nakaugalian na talaga ng mga Pilipino. Hindi kasalanan ng pobreng Sinas na ‘yan na pumunta sila doon, hindi naman niya alam,” the president said.

“Akin na ‘yun. At kung may kasalanan siya doon, pardon na siya. Wala akong nakitang kasalanan na masama na may moral implications, may kasamang malisya, wala,” he added.

Sinas is facing criminal charges before the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office over the “mañanita” celebration.

Two days after he was named PNP chief, on Nov. 11, Sinas in a Laging Handa briefing urged his critics to file charges against him if they wanted to.

“Sa mga alleged human rights violations ay wala pong katotohanan iyon…wala po akong kaso doon, kung mayroon man, i-encourage po sila na mag-file sila ng kaso para sasagutin ko po sa tamang venue po,” he said.

Duterte has often defended his appointees amid controversy. At the height of the corruption scandal within the Philippine Health Insurance Corp, Duterte defended Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, ex-officio chairman of the state insurer, who was tagged as the “godfather” of the alleged “mafia” that pocketed P15 billion in funds.

The president also cleared Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, saying corruption in government infrastructure projects were caused by officials on the ground. He said the wealthy Villar had no reason to pocket state funds.

In a televised address on Oct, 26, Duterte declared that he would not “just obey the cry of one million” and rather stand firm with his assessments of his appointees. John Ezekiel J. Hirro