Two women who accused Cebu City cops of robbery, rape, and extortion, say they were also tortured inside a secret room at a Cebu City police station.
Police Major Alejandro Batobalonos, Chief of the Integrity Monitoring and Enhancement Group Visayas Field Unit (IMEG-VFU), told Rappler in a phone interview on Monday, April 5, that they are investigating both of the women's claims.
IMEG-VFU is a unit under the Philippine National Police's Central Visayas office that monitors and investigates police misconduct.
Rappler has confirmed the identities of the victims who accused the police of having a secret room, but are not publishing these for their safety.
The victims, with assistance from the IMEG-VFU, filed both administrative and criminal complaints against the following police officers:
Colita and Martinez were identified by both victims. A complaint has been filed against Colita for two counts of rape.
According to the first victim who came forward, at least 11 police officers from Pasil Police Station 6 (Sawang Calero Police Station) in Cebu City conducted a search operation without a warrant on March 9 for firearms in the home of a 35-year-old woman from Minglanilla town.
According to Batobalonos, an internal police investigation found that officers involved in the operation allegedly took the woman's belongings when they found no firearms during the search.
The following day, March 10, the victim was arrested without a warrant. She said she was brought to a secret room, instead of a detention cell.
While detained, she said she was coerced by police to withdraw P170,000 and then took the cash from her.
The victim said that afterwards, Police Staff Sergeant Celso Colita, who led the operation, allegedly brought her to a motel on the same day and raped her.
The victim was only released in the afternoon of Thursday, March 11. After she was released, she reported the incident to the IMEG-VFU on Monday, March 22.
IMEG-VFU is currently investigating the Pasil Police Station's drug enforcement unit.
The second complainant, a 50-year-old businesswoman, said that 6 cops from the same station arrested her on suspicion of being involved in illegal drug-related activities.
The first complainant was also arrested as she was also suspected of being involved in illegal drug trafficking. As of this writing, the businesswoman has denied these accusations.
According to Batobalanos, the second victim pointed out that 4 of the 11 relieved cops in the first case also searched her home in Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City on the evening of Friday, March 26.
Based on initial police reports, no illegal drugs were found that day, much like the first case. However, she said the police operatives forced her to open the vault in her home because they believed she had “drug money.”
Because she did not have the cash, they allegedly took her jewelry and other belongings, and then brought her to the same secret room that the first complainant was put in.
According to Batobalanos, the first victim suffered psychological torture while the second victim suffered physically.
“Ang first kay psychological torture jud to. Sa ikaduha kay physical gyud to siya. Naa tay medical certificate nga part sa ebidensya nato sa pagprove sa physical torture niya,” he said.
(The first was really psychological torture. The second one was physical. There is a medical certificate that is part of our evidence in proving the physical torture inflicted on her.)
The second victim said the police attempted to submerge her head, which was wrapped in plastic, in a pail of water.
She was also choked while she had her hands tied while being threatened to confess where she had kept her “drug money.”
Batobalanos said that this all happened in the secret room which they believed to be located at the back part of the station, right next to the office kitchen.
Pasil Police Station 6 chief Major Eduard Sanchez has since been relieved from his post for failing to supervise his personnel.
Police Major Eraño Regidor has been designated officer-in-charge to give way to an impartial investigation of the case.
“Actually, ang atoang criminal case sa first complainant kay nafile na gyud, waiting for resolution from the prosecutor’s office. For any probable cause, ilang gifile sa korte,” Batobalanos said.
(Actually, our criminal case with the first complainant has been filed and is waiting for a resolution from the prosecutor’s office. For any probable cause, they had it filed in the court.)
According to Batobalanos, the second complainant’s case was filed on Monday, April 5.
Rappler contacted Commission on Human Rights Central Visayas for comment but they have yet to reply as of posting.– Rappler.com