Philippine police win battle for the bulge as body fat rule dropped

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Philippine police have won a battle for the bulge after the force temporarily suspended a requirement for officers seeking promotion to meet body fat targets, an official document showed Tuesday.

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Expanding waistlines have been a hefty problem among police in the Southeast Asian country for years. A 2019 study showed almost 35 percent of personnel were overweight and nearly 10 percent obese.

Rules introduced at the start of the pandemic by former police chief Debold Sinas -- who has publicly acknowledged his own efforts to shed kilos through diet and exercise -- made it compulsory for the 220,000 members of the force to work out daily and submit monthly body mass index (BMI) readings.

Officers seeking to rise up the ranks were blocked if they failed to meet BMI targets, said personnel head Major General Rolando Hinanay.

In a memo to his recently appointed boss, the reed-thin police chief General Guillermo Eleazar, Hinanay called for the rule to be suspended.

He argued Covid-19 restrictions had made it difficult for officers to work out and lose weight.

“As a result, many personnel were disqualified for promotion,” Hinanay said.

Eleazar confirmed to reporters Tuesday he had approved the request.

“Thousands of our personnel need sympathy and understanding as they go about their task enforcing minimum public health safety protocol 24 hours (a day) amid this pandemic,” said Eleazar.

“But the suspension is only temporary and it will be enforced again once we start getting back to normal.”

Officers are supposed to have a BMI of between 18.5 and 27, depending on their age, to qualify for service. Generally a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered a “healthy weight”.

A petition filed by disgruntled officers had argued the policy was “detrimental” and “a form of discrimination to personnel who are above normal BMI”.

In the past officers have been sent to training camps or assigned to less desirable posts to shame them into losing weight.

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