Bato defends cops, slams CHR over secret cell
After the Metro Manila police chief thanked the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for exposing the secret cell that held undocumented detainees in horrendous conditions in Tondo, his superior was apparently not as grateful.
The Philippine National Police chief, Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, questioned the timing of the CHR’s move as he defended PNP personnel accused of extorting money from arrested drug suspects.
Dela Rosa maintained that “ang pulis ko walang ginawang kalokohan (my officers have done nothing wrong).”
“As long as they haven’t hurt or extorted from the detainees, it’s OK with me,” Dela Rosa said in an ABS-CBN interview on Friday night, when he saw the 12 men and women whom the CHR had found huddled in a narrow, stinky space inside the Manila Police District’s Station 1 in Tondo.
A team from the CHR discovered it on Thursday night after receiving a tip that drug suspects were being held there without formal charges or any record until they could pay their way out.
Covered by the media, the surprise CHR inspection of Station 1 discovered the cell when a woman’s voice was heard coming from behind a bookshelf, which concealed the opening of the cell.
The station commander, Supt. Robert Domingo, initially denied that such a place exists in the building. He later explained that he was just “maximizing space” since the station’s regular jail was already packed—but denied the allegations of extortion.
Domingo was ordered relieved the following day by the chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, Director Oscar Albayalde, who thanked the CHR “for taking time’’ to inspect police stations and providing “an eye-opener for all of us to revisit the need for better detention cells and improvement of our jail facilities.”
The 12 detainees, who Domingo said were arrested just a day before the inspection, were finally subjected to inquest proceedings after the CHR found them. They had been moved to the jail at the MPD headquarters when the PNP chief saw them on Friday.
Dela Rosa accused the CHR of timing the inspection with the Asean summit being held in the country, saying it was “just for show (magpakitang-tao).”
He challenged the commission to conduct such inspections daily.
On Friday, CHR chair Jose Luis Martin Gascon criticized Domingo for having “the gall to say this (secret cell) is normal procedure.”
“The antitorture and antienforced disappearance laws specifically prohibit secret detention facilities. The Constitution itself prohibits … cruel and degrading punishment and solitary confinement,” Gascon stressed.
“The law is clear on it: that it is illegal. The antitorture law specifies who is liable, which includes the commanding officer of the station, who should be held responsible immediately, prima facie, for facilities like this.”
The CHR would go either to the Office of the Ombudsman or the National Prosecution Service to recommend that charges be filed against the concerned police officers, Gascon added.
Lawmakers and human rights groups have called for inquiries to check for other secret detention facilities across the country.
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