Philippine National Police

131 detainees die under PNP custody during pandemic

Rambo Talabong
131 detainees die under PNP custody during pandemic

DETENTION. The Manila Police District disinfects their jail on April 17, 2020, as precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19

Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

According to data from the Philippine National Police Internal Affairs Service, 4 detainees died of COVID-19, contradicting the PNP's earlier announcement that none of their detainees caught the virus

Over a hundred detainees in Philippine National Police (PNP) stations died from March 16 to June 30, data from the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) showed.

Of the 131 deaths, 4 are due to the COVID-19, contradicting the earlier claim of the PNP that they have no detainees who contracted the disease.

In a text message to Rappler on Thursday, July 23, PNP IAS Inspector General Alfegar Triambulo said that the 127 others died due to the following causes:

  • 102 due to various primary causes such as difficulty of breathing, cardiovascular failure, and sepsis shock
  • 17 due to “other causes of death” such as meningitis, multiple organ failure, and “loss of consciousness”
  • 5 died by suicide
  • 3 died of physical injuries

Triambulo said the IAS is investigating the physical injuries cases just in case there was foul play involved.

Why does this matter?

The IAS’ disclosure of the death tally came after the Supreme Court ordered judges across the Philippines not to issue commitment orders to jails, effectively having all alleged law violators detained in already cramped detention cells in police stations and precincts.

With the PNP making hundreds of arrests per day even under lockdown, their already overcroded detention cells are expected to be even more packed.

PNP spokesman Brigadier General Bernard Banac earlier told Rappler that their cells already have “barely enough capacity.”

Rights group Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has been urging nations to decongest prisons during the pandemic, and one of its top recommendation was to not send more people to jail.  –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.