CHR says 'secret room' in Cebu City police station 'disappeared'

The secret room in Pasil Police Station 6, where two Cebuana victims were allegedly tortured, has disappeared, Commission on Human Rights Central Visayas (CHR-7) chief investigator Leo Villarino said on Tuesday, April 6.

The CHR-7's investigation team conducted a surprise inspection of Pasil Police Station 6 (Sawang Calero Police Station) on Tuesday morning.

CHR-7 regional director Arvin Ordon had told Rappler on Monday, April 5, that they would be sending a team of investigators to inspect the police station and confirm the existence of a "secret detention facility."

However, by the time the team got to the station on Tuesday, the secret room had already become a storage room.

Police Major Alejandro Batobalonos, chief of the Integrity Monitoring and Enhancement Group Visayas Field Unit (IMEG-VFU), confirmed to Rappler on Monday that the victims were kept in a secret room where they were allegedly tortured.

IMEG-VFU is a unit under the Philippine National Police's Central Visayas office that monitors and investigates police misconduct.

The first victim was illegally detained in the said room from March 10 to 11 after she was suspected of being involved in illegal drug trafficking. 

The second complainant, a 50-year-old businesswoman, was also suspected of the same thing and said that six cops from the same station put her in the same room.

On Monday, the two filed a criminal case in a Cebu court against 11 cops involved in the alleged torture.

During Tuesday's inspection, both victims who were brought along by the investigation team pointed to where the secret room was supposedly located.

"They were held in the room at the back or kilid sa police station.... I don't know if the proper word is 'destroyed,' but when we went there to validate, nawala ang said room," Villarino said in a phone interview.

(They were held in the room at the back or side of the police station.... I don't know if the proper word is "destroyed," but when we went there to validate, the said room disappeared.)

According to the victims, they saw items in the storage room that were present during the time of their captivity. Villarino recalled that the victims pointed to a bench that they took turns sleeping on.

"I would consider it a crime scene. Based on the allegations, they were held captive in that particular room," Villarino said.

The chief investigator believes that the allegations were validated based on what they have seen from the room.

"Though there are other specific areas we need to explore to validate and test the credibility of the complainants," he added.

In a text message, Batobalonos told Rappler on Tuesday that the 11 cops, who have since been relieved, are being kept in the holding area of the Police Regional Office Central Visayas, in Osmeña Boulevard, Cebu City. –