MANILA, Philippines – National police chief Ronald dela Rosa defended police discovered to have a hidden detention cell inside the Manila Police District (MPD) station 1 in Tondo, Manila.
He said he had no problems with the set-up so long as cops were not corrupt and abusive.
“As long as hindi sinasaktan ang detainee, at hindi kinokotongan, okay lang sa akin iyon (the detainees are not hurt, blackmailed, that’s okay with me),” Dela Rosa told reporters Friday evening, April 28, during a visit to the police station. He had just come from Malacañang Palace for a state banquet.
Thursday evening, April 27, a team from the Commission on Human Rights paid a surprise visit to the MPD Station 1. It was during the visit that they found around 12 men and women inside the narrow passageway-turned-jail-cell. All of those detained were apparently drug suspects but had yet to undergo inquest or booking procedures.
Their arrests were apparently not logged in a blotter. Inmates have also claimed that police were physically abusing them and extorting their families in exchange for their freedom.
According to various media reports, Dela Rosa made the rounds inside the police station, speaking to inmates who had been detained inside the cramped, narrow “temporary” jail hidden behind a bookshelf.
Those detained told Dela Rosa they had not been abused by police, contrary to earlier claims made before media and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
But Dela Rosa stood by the Manila police, trailing his guns at the CHR instead. “Hinahamon ko ang mga human rights na yan. Gusto niyo ng inspection? Mag inspection kayo araw-araw. Wag lang kayo mag inspection, magpakitang-tao ngayon na ASEAN summit,” he said.
(I challenge the CHR. You want an inspection? Conduct an inspection every day. Don’t just do inspections for show during the ASEAN summit.)
Dela Rosa’s apparent anger towards the CHR, which is tasked to check on allegations of abuse by state forces, runs counter to earlier statements made by his military academy classmate, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Oscar Albayalde.
In interviews and statements to media, Albayalde said they “welcomed” the CHR’s surprise visit because it was an “eye-opener” to the sorry conditions in jails not just in Manila but around the country.
The CHR said the hidden cell is “absolutely prohibited". Those detained, according to then station commander Superintendent Robert Domingo, were arrested April 27 in the morning during “one time, big time” operations ahead of the ASEAN Summit.
But some detainees contested that claim, saying they had been locked up without an arrest warrant beyond the prescribed number of hours.
Under the Revised Penal Code, an arrested person must be brought to the “proper judicial authorities” within 12 hours for crimes with light penalties, 18 hours for crimes punishable by correctional facilities, and 36 hours for crimes punishable by capital penalties. Drug offenses are punishable by capital penalties.
April 27 and 28 are non-working holidays in the city of Manila because it is host to the ASEAN 2017 Summit. Several hotels and a convention center in the Philippine capital have been chosen as venues for the events and meetings during and around the Summit.