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New Philippine Police Chief Has Troubling Record

Abuses Rampant in Debold Sinas’ Previous Assignments

President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed police Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas as the new head of the Philippine National Police (PNP), despite the officer’s troubling human rights track record.

Sinas did little to assuage concerns, vowing at his oath-taking ceremony at the PNP headquarters on Tuesday, to continue Duterte’s “war on drugs,” in which police extrajudicial executions have claimed thousands of lives.

Sinas earned notoriety for his stint as police chief that covered the island of Negros, known for the rampant killing of labor organizers and land rights activists. The governmental Commission on Human Rights reported that under Sinas, “killings in Negros became more frequent and none of the investigations had produced results.”

In the Central Visayas, where Sinas was the police chief from July 2018 to October 2019, activists, peasants, labor leaders, and lawyers were murdered in a spate of killings and massacres. A Senate investigation determined that the police and military carried out most of the killings as part of its counter-insurgency operations against the communist New People’s Army, along with armed vigilante groups that targeted suspected communists and leftists.

The police have admitted their “drug war” operations across the country have killed nearly 8,000 people, though independent estimates are much higher. An overwhelming majority of these killings, as well as those perpetrated by unidentified assailants linked to the police, have not been investigated. Only one case has resulted in the conviction of police officers. Sinas himself has refused to cooperate with the Commission on Human Rights when it has investigated cases.

Given his record, there are strong reasons to fear that the human rights situation in the country will further deteriorate with Sinas as police chief. During Tuesday’s oath-taking, Sinas urged PNP members to “walk the talk” in enforcing the law, warning corrupt officers that they “will be immediately investigated and dismissed from police service if found guilty.” Sinas should heed his own warning about police accountability. He can gain some credibility by ending extrajudicial killings in the “drug war” and by seriously and impartially investigating the killings in which police officers have been implicated.

 

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