Cartoon by Roni Santiago

We could not help but feel indignant about the detention of 12 people in a secret, dark, small cell inside the Manila Police Station 1 in Tondo. The clandestine cell was discovered on April 27 by operatives of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

Although the 12 detained men and women were not subjected to physical violence, the inhuman treatment is cruel and horrible: Like animals, they were corralled for several days in a dark space so small and tight they could not even lie down.              

News reports had it that the cell was hidden behind a book cabinet. The CHR operatives discovered the secret cell when they heard noise from behind the cabinet.

The detained persons included a laundry woman who denied she was involved in drug peddling. One of them claimed the policemen had asked them to cough up money for their release.

Upon hearing the news about the discovery of the secret jail, President  Duterte vowed to look into it. “I will look into this. I will call Bato (PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa),” Duterte told reporters.

Meanwhile, Director Oscar Albayalde, director of the National Capital Region Police Office, ordered the administrative relief of the station commander, Supt. Roberto Domingo, along with 12 other police officers.

Malacañang welcomed the relief of Domingo and his men, saying “a report of the investigation will be forthcoming.”

Albayade directed the Regional Internal Affairs Service, the PNP’s office tasked with looking into irregularities committed by their personnel, to conduct an investigation.

But even before the investigation could take off the ground, PNP Chief Dela Rosa said he believed the policemen involved had done nothing wrong. He questioned the timing of the raid by CHR, saying it was done while ASEAN Summit was under way.

Dela Rosa also questioned the CHR authority to conduct raids on police stations. For the information of the PNP chief, CHR is an independent constitutional body empowered to uphold respect for human rights. Aside from other duties, CHR can “exercise visitorial powers over jails, prisons or detention facilities.”

The secret-jail mess is just one of the many cases of police abuses and human rights violations that have come about as a consequence of Duterte’s war on illegal drugs.

Topping the list are extra-judicial killings (EJKs) that now number some 7,000, most of which have remained unsolved.

It is obvious the 12 persons detained in the secret jail are poor. Otherwise, they would have given in to the demand for money instead of enduring a subhuman condition.

President Duterte, who is being blamed for the EJKs, should see to it that the policemen involved are punished to the fullest for their despicable acts. Otherwise, policemen would continue abusing and slaughtering poor people suspected of involvement in the drug trade.


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