The promotion of controversial police official Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas to chief of the Philippine National Police on Monday raised eyebrows, with some questioning if any rules applied at all to President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointees.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque announced Sinas’ promotion on Monday. Sinas is facing criminal charges before the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office over a “mañanita” celebration with police officers held at the height of the Covid-19 scare in the country in May.

In a statement, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said Sinas’ appointment as PNP Chief would make way for a “bigger mañanita-style impunity.”

“With more power to suppress legitimate dissent, Maj. Gen Debold Sinas will be more capable of not only hosting illegal mass gatherings but in orchestrating mass arrests and mass murders of ordinary citizens ala-Oplan Sauron. We urge the public to call for accountability for Sinas’ crimes against the people and stand against this tyrannical rule that aims to tighten its grip on power,” Brosas said.

“The appointment of Sinas as head of the PNP is no surprise, as President Duterte has a knack for rewarding loyal, blood-thirsty police and military officials. This is also part of the Duterte regime’s plan to intensify its red-tagging schemes and brutal war machinery against the Filipino people with the help of one of his most loyal lackeys,” she added.

During Sinas’ stint as police director in Central Visayas, the region saw an uptick in drug-related killings and arrests. Sinas ordered strict access restrictions on anti-drug operations-related documents.

The Commission on Human Rights expressed hope that under Sinas, the police would affirm the government’s commitments to uphold justice and human rights by pursuing every case of human rights violation.

“We cannot overemphasize the role of our law enforcers in making perpetrators accountable for their offenses. And, to this end, we also look forward to concrete actions from the PNP in realizing openness and genuine cooperation in investigating said human rights violations—even in cases when state officers and agents are allegedly implicated in their commission, CHR spokeswoman Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.

Netizens were also quick to point out the irony in Sinas’ promotion.

Despite being handpicked by Duterte to serve as the country’s top cop, Sinas is still not free from criminal charges filed against him for participating in a birthday party that violated Covid-19 protocols, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said on Tuesday.

However, Roque pointed out that charges against Sinas were yet to be approved.

“[Ang kasong kriminal] po ay nakabinbin pa rin sa tanggapan ng City Prosecutor ng Taguig at dahil dito, ibig sabihin nito wala pa pong kasong kriminal si Chief Sinas,” Roque said in a media briefing.

Sinas was promoted by Duterte to lead the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday after Gen. Camilo Cascolan reached the mandatory retirement age.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said that Duterte ordered Sinas to intensify the government’s war on drugs.

“Kahapon at saka kagabi, dalawa ang pinagdiinan ng ating pangulo: itong laban sa iligal na droga at laban sa CPP-NPA-NDF, and i would expect General Sinas to serve no less… Isa sa mga tagubilin na order ay pangunahan ni General Sinas with intensity yung laban against illegal drugs, criminalities, extremist and commmunist bandits and terrorists,” Año said in an interview over Teleradyo.

“Dapat i-set din niya yung standard sa performance, professionalism at discipline at dapat na every policeman counts at there must be no room for scalawags,” he added.

Sinas is the third police official to head the PNP this year, following Gen. Archie Gamboa and Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan. John Ezekiel J. Hirro