THE Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the criminal and administrative complaints filed against Manila policemen for maintaining a secret detention facility that was discovered by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
On April 27, 2017, the CHR conducted a surprise visit to the Manila Police District (MPD) Raxabago Station 1 in Tondo, Manila, following reports of people being held illegally and released in exchange for ransom.
In its decision, however, the Ombudsman concluded that there was not enough evidence to prove the policemen acted in bad faith in detaining at least twelve people in a cramped jail cell hidden behind a bookshelf.
A copy of the nine-page resolution, which was approved by Deputy Ombudsman Cyril Ramos, stated that the CHR failed to establish probable cause against the local police for the crimes of arbitrary detention, delay in the delivery of detained persons to the proper judicial authority, maltreatment of prisoners, grave threats, grave coercion, and robbery [or] extortion.
“It is beyond dispute that the twelve newly arrested persons were detained inside a cramped space,” the resolution read. “Since the burden of proof lies with the CHR, it was incumbent upon said office to prove that there was another available confinement area which is better than the one where said detainees were locked up, but that respondents intentionally and maliciously refused to accord them such.”
“Wherefore, the criminal and administrative cases against all respondents are dismissed,” the Ombudsman said.
CHR seeks ‘thorough review’
The CHR, on the other hand, appealed to the Ombudsman to review its decision, calling its move a “setback in [their] effort to eliminate the illegal practice of using secret detention facilities.”
“We appeal to the Ombudsman to thoroughly review [its] decision. It is crucial that we work together in ensuring that grave abuses are held to account to prevent such abuses from happening again,” it said in a statement.
The commission reiterated that the charges had been filed to hold the “erring police officers” accountable. It said: “Scalawags among the police ranks will not be truly dealt with if those who have committed serious violations, particularly concerning fundamental human rights, are not held to account.”
“As institutions tasked to check abuse of power, the protection of the rights of all, particularly the vulnerable sectors, is the essence of our mandate,” the CHR added.