Dela Rosa on hidden Manila jail: My cops aren't abusive, corrupt
MANILA, Philippines – Despite criticism from various sectors – including a senator he calls his “idol” – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa stood by his defense of cops accused of abusing and extorting money from drug suspects after the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) discovered a hidden jail inside the Manila Police Station 1 in Tondo, Manila.
“Ako naman, parati kong sinasabi pag yung mga pulis ko gumagawa ng kalokohan, hindi ko sila sasantohin. Pag wala naman silang ginagawang kalokohan, kailangan depensahin ko rin sila (I’ve always said that if cops do wrong, I will not go easy on them. But if they didn’t do anything wrong, I need to defend them),” said Dela Rosa on Monday, May 1 in a chance interview with reporters.
The PNP chief said that he was merely defending police from allegations of corruption and abuse and insisted he was not justifying the creation of the hidden jail, which was “wrong… legally.” (READ: Dela Rosa's defense of secret jail cell shows 'ignorance' of law)
“Let’s make this clear, ang ginawa kong defense sa kanila yung issue na pinapalabas ng CHR na sila ay humihingi ng forty to fifty thousand para ma areglo yung kasi para ilabas yung detainee. Naprove ko doon na wala, tinanong ko doon, yung sampu, wala. Yung torture, yung pananakit, wala man daw, hindi man daw sila sinasaktan,” said the PNP chief.
(My defense was about the issue the CHR came up with about extortion in exchange for freedom. I proved that it wasn’t true. I asked the detainees, nothing. The torture allegations, they said it was true. They said they weren’t being hurt.)
He added: “Yung kulungan, sagutin ng station commander diyan, bakit doon sila kinulong (The station commander will have to answer why he jailed them there).”
On April 27, a CHR team visited the Manila Police District (MPD) Station 1 during which they discovered an alleyway that housed a dozen drug suspects. The makeshift detention area was hidden by a bookshelf.
The station commander, Superintendent Robert Domingo, and members of the Drug Enforcement Unit have since been ordered relieved pending an investigation by the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Internal Affairs Service (IAS).
Tondo policemen were also accused of torture, extorting money from the families of suspects in exchange for their freedom, and arbitrarily detaining the drug suspects.
The PNP chief drew even more backlash after he was quoted in various news reports as defending the police by saying he was “okay” with their actions so long as detainees were not hurt or subjected to extortion.
Lying to CHR?
“Ako’y pumunta doon kasi gusto ko lang talaga ay pawang katotohanan. I did not go there to defend right away my policemen. Sabi ko nga doon sa mga preso, wag kayong matakot… magsabi kayo sa akin ng totoo kasi kakampi niyo ako. Kakampi niyo ako, hindi ako kakampi ng mga masasamang pulis,” he said.
(I went there because I wanted to know the truth. I did not go there to defend right away my policemen. I told the detainees, don’t be afraid. Just tell the truth because I am on your side. I’m not on the side of bad police.)
Dela Rosa inspected the Tondo police station Friday evening, April 28, hours after the NCRPO and MPD police chiefs inspected the station as well.
The PNP chief said he spoke to at least 10 detainees who were once housed inside the hidden detention cell. According to Dela Rosa, none of them claimed to have been abused, extorted, or maltreated by police. The detainees also supposedly admitted that none of them had been kept in jail without a warrant beyond 36 hours – the maximum time a person can be kept in detention without being brought to judicial authorities.
Yet, some of these detainees previously told reporters the opposite.
The suspects, whom Domingo said were arrested the morning of April 27, have since undergone inquest proceedings.
Dela Rosa pointed out that the fiscal would not have accepted their cases if they had been detained beyond 36 hours.
The PNP chief said the suspects told him they even preferred their old detention area – the hidden jail – over the crowded and cramped main jail cell inside the tiny police station.
“Tinanong ko bakit sinabi niyo sa human rights yan, bakit niyo sinabi sa CHR yan. Sabi nung isa: Sir, sinabi namin iyon, nag sinungaling kami sir dahil akala namin na mailalabas kami ng CHR sa kulungan after that inspection. Sinabi namin yun kasi akala namin matulungan kami mailabas sa kulungan. Paano sila mailabas na may kaso man sila na kinakaharap? Paano sila makakalabas? Yun nga, nagbago ang kanilang pananalita nung tinanong ko,” said Dela Rosa.
(I asked them, why did you say that to CHR? One of them told me: Sir, we said that, we lied because we thought the CHR would be able to set us free. We said that because we thought they could help us leave prison. But how will they leave when they have cases against them? How will they get out? They changed their tune when I asked.)
‘Cops, suspects are people too’
And while Dela Rosa admitted the detention cell itself was illegal, he called on people to understand the situation.
“Sabi nga nila, they are just maximizing space. May alley doon na pwedeng lagyan para maluwag. Then, tao pa rin yung pulis. Nag-iisip ng maganda na hindi masikip doon. Kung ang purpose nila sa pagkulong doon sa unauthorized kulungan ay para kotongan, para hindi file-an ng kaso [at] ma-areglo yung kasi pag magbayad sila, that’s another story,” explained Dela Rosa.
(They said they were just maximizing the space. There was an alley that had space, so the [main cells] would be less cramped. They thought of a way to decongest the main cell. If the purpose of keeping people there in the unauthorized cell was to extort, to avoid the filling of cases if they were paid, that’s another story.)
“Akala niyo prisoners, suspects or pulis, lahat yan mga tao… intindihan natin ang side nila. Hindi por que ganon, ijudge na natin sila (Prisoners, suspects, or police, they are all human. Let’s understand their side. Just because you see this, you judge them),” the 4-star police official added. (READ: Explaining the PNP secret detention cell)
Since the war on drugs began in July 2016, the PNP has had to defend itself from allegations of abuse within its ranks. Police have been accused of resorting to extra-legal means in the name of the campaign against illegal drugs – an allegation Dela Rosa denies.
At the same time, the PNP chief on Monday said he would order the MPD to probe a cop accused of being behind summary executions in Tondo, Manila. – Rappler.com