Police regional chiefs found no 'secret jails,' says 'Bato'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 04 2017 03:40 PM | Updated as of May 04 2017 06:13 PM

Detainees wait inside a hidden jail cell, masked by a wooden shelf, at the Manila Police District Station 1. Around 12 detainees alleged on April 27, 2017 that they were being held at the 1 x 3 meter detention waiting for ransom so they can be freed. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA - An inventory of police detention facilities in the country has not yielded any secret jail cell like the one discovered in Manila last week, the head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Thursday. 

"So far, all the regional directors reported to me that there is no existing secret detention facilities being maintained by their respective subordinate units," PNP chief Director General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa told reporters. 

"Meaning, iyung police stations, provincial headquarters, walang mini-maintain na ganoon," he added. 

Dela Rosa ordered the inventory of police facilities after the Commission on Human Rights found a dozen individuals detained in a cramped and hidden cell inside the Raxabago police station in Manila's busy Tondo district last week. 

The detainees said they had been held there for about a week after being arrested on drug allegations.

They also claimed policemen had demanded P40,000 to P200,000 for their release and the non-filing of charges against them. 

Dela Rosa on Saturday defended his men's actions, saying "as long as the prisoners were not tortured or extorted, it’s okay with me." 

He also accused the CHR of plotting to embarrass the government as the secret jail was discovered while President Rodrigo Duterte hosted fellow leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at their annual summit.

Lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives are seeking an inquiry into the "secret jail." 

Despite Dela Rosa's pronouncements, PNP-Internal Affairs Service Deputy Inspector General Leo Angelo Leuterio said they want to wait for the result of their independent audit in order to be objective. 

"We cannot be convinced unless we make our own impartial and objective investigation into it. We make our objective audits into their existence and who knows what we may find. But until na sinabi sa aming mga field offices na ito ang nakita namin, we cannot preempt whatever audit that they are doing right now. Because we really want our process to be objective," Leuterio said. 

IAS operatives are still doing their nationwide audit and have yet to submit their findings. Leuterio said their operatives have already spoken with the relatives of the detainees

"From all indications na sinasabi sa amin during interviews. Sinasabi naman nila na ang mga kamag-anak nila nakakapasok naman, labas masok doon. Doon nila pinupuntahan so what is really secret about it," he said. 

IAS also said they still need to investigate claims and counterclaims with regard to the existence of the secret jail. 

"Yung mga initial statements ng mga kaanak na they are able to visit their relatives there, they are able to go there. And even yung blotter entries would indicate that nandoon nga, wala namang itinatago, wala namang secret na itinatago ang mga pulis natin doon. But then again, these are initial findings," said Leuterio.

"We have to believe that there are counterclaims, which are alleging na 'oo nga secret nga siguro yan'. Ibabalanse natin yan. We have to hear both sides. Kase yung judicial process ng IAS, we have to hear both sides and I think that is required in a justice system such as ours. We have to hear both sides," he added.

-- With reports from Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News; Henry Atuelan, DZMM