Secret jail in Tondo? 'We really don’t know,' says NCR chief
MANILA, Philippines – It’s a hidden jail that “is not really a secret” but whose purpose is not clear, according to top officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who visited a police station where the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) found a “lock-up cell” hidden behind a bookshelf.
“Well, we really do not know. That's subjective. Hindi natin pwede sabihin iyon. Kasi ginamit nga na isang temporary detention cell eh. It's the purpose… Purposely ginamit na parang staging area talaga,” said National Capital Region police chief Director Oscar Albayalde on Friday, April 28, hours after the CHR visit to Manila Police District (MPD) Station 1 in Tondo, Manila.
(We cannot say that. Because it was used as a temporary cell. It was purposefully used as a staging area.)
Albayalde was asked about the CHR’s claim that the cell was kept a secret.
The investigation will be conducted by the NCRPO’s Regional Internal Affairs Service, a PNP unit tasked to investigate and recommend sanctions against erring men and women in uniform.
During an unannounced visit to the police station Thursday evening, April 27, the CHR discovered around 12 men and women – persons arrested for drug charges – inside a narrow alleyway hidden behind a bookshelf.
Station 1 commander Superintendent Robert Domingo said the suspects were arrested on April 27 in the morning during a “one time, big time” operation conducted ahead of the ASEAN summit in Metro Manila.
But some of the detainees who spoke to media the night of the CHR visit said they had been there for over a week. Domingo was also unable to show police blotters that record arrests.
Police have also been alleged to have asked between P40,000 to P200,000 in exchange for the release of the suspects, a claim denied by Domingo.
Station commander's 'initiative'
Also speaking to media during their visit to the station, Manila police director Chief Superintendent Joel Coronel said the creation of the controversial detention facility was an “initiative” of Domingo, given the “lack of facilities for those recently arrested.”
“We are aware that the jails in MPD are overcrowded. I understand that our jail capacities are overcrowded to almost 50% to 60% so we need to find ways to accommodate them,” explained Coronel.
Pressed on whether there was “regularity” in the creation of the “staging area” inside the crowded Tondo police station, Albayalde said: “We cannot say that, that there’s regularity. Let the investigation find that out, based on the recommendations against the police.”
‘Not according to standards’
While Albayalde neither defended or admonished Domingo for the facility, he admitted that the facilities were “inhumane,” as the CHR had pointed out. He also admitted that it did not pass the standards of the PNP for jails – but neither did other cells, he added.
“I’m thinking of all police stations here, particularly here in Metro Manila, it’s really overcrowded. So we welcome the CHR and their inspection of our detainees. This is a welcome development for all of us, for everybody so we see the situation of those in jail,” said Albayalde.
He added: “It’s not just in Metro Manila. Maybe in the entire country because since we started the war on drugs, the detention cells have been fill, especially in Metro Manila, where there have been so many arrested because of their involvement in illegal drugs.”
Domingo and the station’s Drug Enforcement Unit have been relieved pending investigation, according to Albayalde, who said the regional command did not know of the existence of the improvised jail cell until the CHR team’s visit.
When asked if he knew the cell existed, Coronel did not give a clear answer but said that various MPD stations, including station 1, had requested for their detainees to be transferred to the MPD jail. The police general said they only took in detainees who had non-bailable charges. – Rappler.com