Manila's 'secret cell' unlawful, cops must be charged: House panel

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 09 2018 06:08 PM | Updated as of Oct 09 2018 10:24 PM

The House Committee on Human Rights said a secret detention cell in the Raxabago Police Station violated provisions of the 1987 Constitution and the Anti-Torture Law, and suggested that police officers be charged. 

In a committee report, the panel rejected justifications for a jail hidden behind a bookshelf at the Manila Police District (MPD) Station.

It said claims that the jail was hidden as a security measure was “unacceptable taking into account the fact, based on the video presented and as seen on media, that the said detention cell is shut using steel bars and a padlock.”

The jail was discovered by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in 2017. 

The House panel report said condition inside the cell was beyond “humane conditions." It also noted a breakdown in procedure, citing improper documentation of the detained suspects.

The report however said the cases of physical maltreatment, grave coercion, and extortion of the 12 detainees in the secret detention cell were not firmly established in the hearings. 

However, “this does not negate the possibility that physical maltreatment, grave coercion and extortion indeed happened to the 12 detainees."

"The committee does not omit the fact that several factors, such as the fear of reprisal if the detainees from police authorities could have affected the verity of the affidavits they executed and other documentation gathered by the CHR and the PNP," the report read.

The report recommended charges against erring policemen under the command of Supt. Robert Domingo as determined by the CHR in a letter of complaint to the Ombudsman.

It also wants a review of the PNP Operational Procedures and for the CHR to conduct surprise visits to detention cells and jails. 

It also wants to intensify the monitoring and inventory efforts of the CHR and PNP on the status of the detained and places of detention. It recommended that ways be found to ensure that law enforcers comply with existing human rights law.

The CHR, in a statement, welcomed the House committee's report and called on the police to "genuinely clean its ranks from abusive cops."

"We call on the PNP to genuinely clean its ranks from abusive cops, who violate their own oath 'to serve and protect' the Filipino people, including a truthful review of the PNP Operational Procedures in the interest of upholding the dignity of all," CHR commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said.

She added that the report "further highlights the need to respect CHR's independence and constitutional mandate in ensuring government's obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of all."