CRITICIZED by some senators for abetting the use by the Manila Police District (MPD) of a secret jail cell, Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, has ordered police commanders nationwide to conduct an inventory of the country’s jails and find if there are similar facilities in their respective areas of responsibilities.
“This is to make sure that no detention cells similar to the secret detention cell of [Police] Station 1 exists. I want to make it sure so I am ordering all the RDs [regional directors]to conduct an inventory and make sure there are no secret detention cells because that is against the law,” de la Rosa told reporters at the sidelines of a shooting competition in Lipa City, Batangas, on Wednesday.
The PNP chief earlier defended the detention of 12 persons in a closet-sized secret detention cell discovered last week by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) inside the MPD’s Police Station 1 in Manila’s Tondo district.
De la Rosa’s defense of police officers assigned to the police station irked not only CHR officials but also Senators Panfilo Lacson and Franklin Drilon.
Lacson said in his Twitter account that “defending an unlivable prison cell hidden behind a book shelf inside a police station is incomprehensible.”
“It is also very arrogant,” he added.
Drilon said using hidden cells violates the Constitution, the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 and the Revised Penal Code, citing in particular Section 12(2), Article III of the Constitution that explicitly prohibits “secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention.”
“I do not see how General de la Rosa can say that his cops did nothing wrong, when the Constitution and the law [are]clear that having a secret detention is illegal,” he noted in a statement.
De la Rosa is now singing a different tune and declared that he would no longer accept the earlier defense of the police officials that the secret detention cell was installed to help ease congestion in the country’s jails.
Earlier, the PNP chief said his men could not be faulted for looking for such alternative.
“I told them that if your detention cells are full, just tie the incoming inmates to one of the posts of the police station or on the cell bars so that they can’t escape and to show to the people that we are transparent. We cannot just let them go after filing the charges against them. Just tie them. We have no other option,” he added.
De la Rosa said the PNP will propose during the next budget deliberations to allocate funds for renovation or extension of congested detention cells particularly those in the urban areas.
The PNP chief apologized to CHR officials for his earlier reaction when he rushed to the Tondo police station.
CHR Chairman Manuel Gascon has said that backing a secret detention cell encourages a “climate of impunity” in the country.
“I apologize to the human rights [commission]if I became emotional. It was natural for a ‘father’ to defend his children when he finds basis. So I am sorry and I know you’re just performing your job. That’s the nature of your work. The most important is that we are friends. Let us talk. There’s no problem with that,” de la Rosa said.