MANILA - (3rd UPDATE) A station commander of the Manila Police District (MPD) was temporarily removed from his post on Friday, a day after the discovery of a secret jail cell where a dozen men and women were detained.
The relief order on Supt. Robert Domingo, commander of the Raxabago station, will pave the way for an impartial investigation, Metro Manila police director Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde said in a phone interview with ABS-CBN News.
Albaylade also ordered the relief of 12 members of the Raxabago station's drug enforcement unit (DEU), including its head, Senior Insp. Edwin Fuggan.
Malacañang meanwhile commended Albayalde for "acting decisively" on the issue.
"We commend Police Director Oscar Albayalde, Regional Director of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for acting decisively, and ordering the administrative relief of the Manila Police District Station Commander 1 and directing the Regional Internal Affairs Service to conduct an investigation," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) inspected the Raxabago station on Thursday, following a tip that drug suspects were illegally detained there.
Domingo had initially denied the existence of the secret cell, but CHR-Metro Manila director Gilbert Boisner, acting on his informant's tip, proceeded to inspect a brown bookshelf in the DEU office.
Behind the shelf, CHR found a passage leading to a cramped cell where 12 persons were detained.
Boisner said there was no record of the arrest and inquest proceedings for the detainees, who were also allegedly beaten while in detention.
Domingo denied that policemen tortured the detainees and demanded money for their release.
In a press briefing Thursday, he insisted that those detained in the hidden cell could not mix with other suspects in the station's main cell because no case has been filed against them yet.
Domingo added that he ordered the use of the hidden cell to ease overcrowding at the main cell, which currently holds some 80 detainees, double its 40-person capacity.
He also challenged CHR to file cases against the police, which he vowed to answer in court.
The detainees from the hidden cell meanwhile were transferred to the station's well-ventilated DEU office. They were not released because charges would be filed against them.
The National Capital Region Police Office and the Philippine National Police-Internal Affairs Service will conduct separate probes into the issue.
Depending on their findings, Domingo may face suspension or dismissal from the service. He may be reinstated to his post if investigators determine he was not personally involved in the alleged abuse of detainees, Albayalde said.
Domingo served as commander of the MPD Station in Sta. Ana before he was transferred to Raxabago this year.
The cop said his predecessor as Raxabago chief, Supt. Redentor Ulsano, was also relieved after a CHR visit found that drug suspects awaiting inquest were held in the same detention facility as other suspects whose cases were already filed.
-- With reports from Anjo Bagaoisan and Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News; Micheal Joe Delizo and Dennis Datu, DZMM