Laguna police, intelligence chiefs sacked over ‘torture’ reports
CAMP VICENTE LIM, Philippines — The head of the Laguna police and the chief of the police intelligence branch (PIB) in the same province were relieved of their posts, following allegations of torture and maltreatment of police detainees in an unauthorized detention facility in Biñan City, Laguna.
Chief Superintendent Jesus Gatchalian, the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) police director, said on Thursday, the two officers were relieved as an internal investigation continuing into the so-called “torture chamber” in one of PIB’s satellite offices.
The two relieved officials were Senior Supt. Pascual Muñoz, provincial director of Laguna, and Superintendent Kirby Kraft, Laguna’s chief intelligence officer.
Earlier relieved and charged administratively were 10 PIB unit personnel, including the team leader, Chief Inspector Arnold Formento. This was after the Commission on Human Rights released a report that the policemen tortured the detainees, either to punish them, elicit information from them or for sheer fun.
“There’s something flawed,” Gatchalian said in a phone interview.
Gatchalian ordered the shutdown of the lock-up jail in St. Francis I subdivision where 26 crime suspects used to be held.
The place was actually a bungalow apartment being leased by the PIB first district unit, composed of 12 personnel, as its office. At the kitchen area, the police improvised a small prison cell by enclosing a portion of it with iron bars.
A female resident said they were aware there was a police “safehouse” in their subdivision although the vehicles they observed coming in and out of the house were not marked police vehicles but black SUVs.
“We didn’t know about the torture though. Even those living in the house closest (to the police safehouse) didn’t observe any. We only learned about it from the news so everyone here was also surprised,” she said.
The iron bars were dismantled on Tuesday evening while the detainees were transferred last week to a new official city jail beside Biñan’s city hall.
Gatchalian said there were “too many” arrested suspects, which might have forced the intelligence team to create a lock-up cell.
He said it was not really a secret facility since the courts handling the detainees’ cases were aware of the cell’s location although he admitted it was “unauthorized” by law.
Gatchalian said the distance of the lock-up cell from the city police station in another village created a condition “for a few policemen prone” to maltreatment of the detainees.
A male detainee, arrested by the PIB team for possession of marijuana last year, said the policemen were usually drunk when the detainees were beaten up. He said it happened only when higher officers were not around.
“Those frequently subjected to torture were former police assets who were arrested after things between them and the policemen turned sour,” the male detainee said.
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