THE chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, has once again shown his incompetence in his handling of the secret detention cell discovered at the Manila Police District (MPD) Station 1 in Tondo, Manila.
Instead of holding to task the station commander and his men there, de la Rosa chided the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for conducting a surprise inspection of the secret jail while the government was hosting the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Manila.
De la Rosa was more worried that news about the existence of the secret detention cell that held a dozen suspected drug personalities would be embarrassing for the government. Yes, he found it more embarrassing than the fact that his men allowed that situation to exist. For him, it is a worse crime for the CHR to have rescued those people that the police had detained under clearly inhuman conditions than for his men to be maintaining that dungeon.
The chief PNP was insinuating that the CHR had timed the inspection of the Station 1 jail with the presence of the Asean leaders in Manila. To him, it was less important that the CHR found on April 27 a dozen men and women kept in a cramped room hidden behind a bookshelf in the Raxabago police station in Tondo than finding out that this kind of situation exists.
Even as de la Rosa relieved the station commander, Supt. Robert Domingo, he had already cleared the police in that Tondo station. “Ang pulis ko walang ginawang kalokohan,” he said when he went to the police station a day after the CHR’s surprise visit.
According to a news report, de la Rosa came to the defense of his men after talking to one inmate, who denied that they were being beaten up and held for ransom. The inmate had supposedly claimed that he and the other rescued detainees had preferred being held inside the hidden detention cell.
However, the CHR’s initial inquiry showed that the detainees had no record of arrest. While the station commander said the detainees were arrested just the day before, the detainees claimed that they had been held there for more than a week.
Some detainees also accused the policemen of torturing them and demanding money for their release.
If those men and women had violated laws on drugs or whatever, why were they not charged and detained in the regular jail?
Some of the detainees claimed there were about 30 of them packed like sardines at one point, dela Rosa ought to find out what had happened to the rest. Did they pay ‘ransom’ or have they been charged and moved to the regular jail, or have they been killed because they fought back?
Instead of questioning the motive of the CHR in conducting the inspection at the time the Asean leaders and delegates were in Manila, dela Rosa should have interrogated the police officers behind this mess, which is another blot in the country’s record in protecting human rights.
It was a surprise that dela Rosa did not show his usual braggadocio by threatening to subject the station commander and his men to experience what the detainees had undergone in that dungeon for a week. Probably, he should join them so they would know how inhuman it was to be treated that way.
His jailers may be kinder by providing him reading light and a copy of the Constitution so he could reflect on the provision of the Bill of Rights, specifically Section 1 that says: No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or prosperity without due process of law, now shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.
Dela Rosa should be informed as well about the existence of Paragraph 2, Section 12 in the Bill of Rights which expressly prohibits “secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention.”
Section 14 prescribes: No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.
The men and woman kept in the secret detention may have committed criminal offenses, but it does not mean that law enforcers could do anything to them, no matter how inhuman.
Policemen are primarily tasked to enforce the law, and not be the first to break them. If we could not trust policemen to protect us from criminal elements, who should we turn to?
We should not allow braggadocio to prevail over the laws. Dela Rosa is the country’s chief law enforcer; he should be more circumspect in his words and deed. Better yet, he should just hand in his resignation letter and take time reading and understanding the laws he is mandated to observe and enforce.