Police station chief relieved over secret jail cell

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The chief of a Manila police station found to have illegally detained people inside a secret "lock-up cell" was relieved on Friday, April 28. 

National Capital Police Region Office (NCRPO) spokesperson Major Kimberly Molitas said that Superintendent Robert Domingo was relieved a day after a Commission of Human Rights (CHR) team found around 12 men and women locked up inside a "secret jail" hidden behind a bookshelf inside Police Station 1 in Tondo, Manila. 

NCRPO chief Director Oscar Albayalde said Domingo will be investigated by the regional Internal Affairs Service, the PNP's mechanism for investigating irregularities by their own men and women.

Domingo had refused the CHR team's plan to take the detainees with them, insisting that they were persons under arrest.

At the time of the raid on Thursday evening, April 27, Domingo was unable to show police blotters recording the arrests. 

Albayalde and Manila Police District (MPD) director Chief Superintendent Joel Coronel visited the police station in Tondo Friday morning.

Also relieved were the station's Drug Enforcement Unit, according to Molitas. 

'Ready to face charges'

Speaking to media, Domingo said he was ready to face charges against him in court.

Domingo had insisted that there was nothing illegal in the "lock-up cell" found by the CHR, but CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon said on Friday that this was "absolutely prohibited" by the Constitution and laws such as Republic Act No 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 and Republic Act 10353 or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012.

Domingo is a familiar face not just in the MPD but to media as well. Several years back, he served as NCRPO spokesperson under now-retired police director Carmelo Valmoria. 

In October 2016, Domingo was commander of  Manila Police Station 6 in Sta Ana. (READ: The Drug War: Legendary)

"Zero tolerance," Domingo had told Rappler of his policy on erring cops, echoing the avowed PNP policy since the popular but bloody war on drugs began. 

"Internal cleansing" is the term the PNP uses in its efforts to rid itself of criminals in their own ranks. 

Erring cops and killings in the Duterte administration's war on drugs have been the subject of reports of human rights watchdogs and criticism from the international community. (READ: Cops are paid to kill in PH war on drugs – Amnesty Int'l– Rappler.com