MANILA - The Quezon City police denied Thursday that a 22-year-old man arrested in its anti-loitering campaign was beaten to death while in detention.
Genesis Argoncillo, 22, was watching videos on his phone in front of a store next to their house in Novaliches, Quezon City last Friday night when policemen arrested him because he was not wearing a shirt.
Four days later, his family found his lifeless body in a morgue, swollen and allegedly bearing marks of beating, they said.
In a statement, the Quezon City Police District said Argoncillo complained of shortness of breath on Tuesday and was rushed to a hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival.
The doctor who attended to Argoncillo "certified that there were no signs of external injuries," QCPD said.
In the past month, 5 detainees died inside QCPD facilities after complaining of difficulty of breathing, the police unit said.
QCPD admitted that all its custodial facilities are "heavily congested."
In Station 4 where Argoncillo was detained, there were 138 detainees even though it can only hold 6 people, police said.
The QCPD said it has provided detainees with additional water and ventilation, monthly medical missions, and hygiene kits. Detention facilities are also inspected weekly, it said.
Police earlier alleged that Argoncillo was intoxicated when authorities chanced upon him during "Oplan Galugad" operations. The police report also claimed that he was "challenging anyone to a fist fight which disturbs the serenity of the night."
Superintendent Carlito Grijaldo, QCPD Station 4, said Argoncillo's death was self-inflicted, claiming the detainee was "mentally disturbed" and was uncontrollable, making a scene inside the cell.
Argoncillo's family has disputed this claim, saying the victim was softspoken and never had any mental health issue.
The owner of a sari-sari store where Argoncillo was arrested also claimed that police made him hold empty beer bottles left where he was sitting, and captured a photograph of him for use as evidence, his family said.
Police earlier said thousands have been arrested amid intensified operations against people breaking city ordinances, following a verbal directive from President Rodrigo Duterte, calling loiterers "potential trouble for the public."
Duterte, however, claimed Wednesday that no arrests were being made based on his directive.
The Commission on Human Rights has urged police to suspend its anti-loitering drive and said it will investigate Argoncillo's death.