Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa backing a secret detention cell found in a precinct of the Manila Police District (MPD) encourages a “climate of impunity” in the country, according to Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairman Luis Manuel Gascon.
In a text message relayed by CHR media director Joel Sarmenta to reporters on late Saturday, Gascon said de la Rosa should not dismiss the issue of the secret jail cell.
Last Thursday, a team of CHR lawyers, accompanied by members of the media, went to MPD Station 1 (Raxabago) in Tondo, Manila, and discovered the secret detention cell there.
The CHR had been “tipped off’” by an informant about the detention cell.
The discovery caused the removal of Police Supt. Roberto Domingo, MPD Station 1 commander.
De la Rosa criticized the CHR for visiting the police station and defended police officers behind the detention of alleged drug suspects at the secrtet jail.
Gascon said the PNP chief’s moves “[perpetuate]wrongful action because [the]wrongdoers are not held accountable or punished.”
“Bato shouldn’t so quickly brush this [issue]aside! That he would choose, by his statements, to even justify [the]operation of this hidden jail as necessary measures to address the problem of jail congestion also reflects his personal ignorance of both the constitutional [and]legal provisions that expressly prohibit the maintenance of secret detention facilities by public authorities,” Gascon noted.
“It is prudent that in matters that may involve malfeasance or misconduct by public officials, particularly when these affect fundamental human rights, as in this case, that their superiors refrain [from]making statements that appear to be condoning [the]same,” he said.
The CHR chairman urged dela Rosa to release a full police audit of all detention places under the PNP so to ensure that there is no “akin or similar” cases existing like the uncovered secret jail in MPD Station 1, as Gascon is “concerned that this may not be an isolated incident.”
Last Friday, he clarified that their agency has no authority to file charges against the policemen involved in the controversy, saying only the Office of the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice has.
Gascon welcomed de la Rosa’s call to the CHR to initiate other jail visits, saying the PNP would cooperate in the auditing of all detention places outside and inside Metro Manila.
The CHR has been one of the staunchest critics of the Duterte administration’s bloody war against drugs but had asked President Rodrigo Duterte to include the agency and other human rights advocates in conducting the revived campaign against illegal drugs.
Meanwhile, Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Director and Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar assured the CHR and the public that there are no hidden jail cells in Quezon City.
“We don’t have secret detention cells in QCPD [stations],” Eleazar told The Manila Times.