Metro Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas
Metro Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas blows his birthday cake in this photo posted by the National Capital Region Police Office's (NCRPO) public information office on Facebook, May 8, 2020. Image Credit: Supplied

Manila: The Philippines government ordered a probe on Wednesday of the Manila police chief’s birthday celebrations after photographs posted online showed him and dozens of fellow officers flouting a ban on social gatherings to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

Debold Sinas, the chief of the National Capital Region’s police office, apologised for “causing anxiety to the public”, but the national police chief and justice minister ordered separate investigations into the incident.

Photographs posted on the force’s Facebook page on May 8 had shown Sinas along with dozens of people without masks sitting closely, with beer cans on their tables despite a liquor ban, while a band entertained them.

The photographs were taken down as the backlash mounted on social media, but by Wednesday the police chief’s party had become the Philippines’ second most trending topic with more than 22,000 tweets.

“It was never my intention to disobey existing protocols relative to the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine,” Sinas said in a statement.

Interior Minister Eduardo Ano, a retired military general, described the party as a “big no, no” in violation of the lockdown in the Philippines capital.

The Philippines has recorded 11,618 coronavirus cases, including 772 deaths.

Curbs on businesses and movement in Manila, home to 13 million people, were introduced in mid-March, and have since been extended up to the end of May, though restrictions in so-called low-risk areas have been eased to jumpstart the economy.