House panel recommends charges vs cops over secret jail cell in Tondo

MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on human rights recommended filing "appropriate" charges against erring cops in relation to the secret jail cell discovered in Tondo, Manila, in April 2017. 

On Tuesday, October 9, members of the House panel unanimously approved the committee report on their investigation into the discovery of 12 men and women held in a secret detention cell in Tondo last year. 

The lawmakers recommended charges filed against police at the Manila Police District-Raxabago Police Station 1 (MPD Station 1) under the command of former station commander Police Superintendent Robert Domingo

The legislators agreed the secret jail cell "was indeed existent" at MPD Station 1.

"The fact that the said detention cell was concealed from plain view with a bookshelf as cover, the said place of confinement can thus be considered as 'secret,'" the House panel said.

The committee said it found as "unacceptable" the police's alibi that the bookshelf used to cover the cell was part of their supplemental security measures.

"The circumstances of the detainees inside the secret detention cell in MPD Station 1 is beyond humane conditions and clearly, do not meet the UN SMRTP (Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners)," said the House human rights committee.

'Respect human rights'

The House panel recommended to law enforcement authorities that they "respect" and "ensure" that the CHR will be able to perform its constitutional mandate to conduct unannounced visits to jails and detention facilities. 

Legislators also recommended the review of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Operational Procedures on the documentation of arrested suspects, so police personnel may properly implement them.

They also want to intensify the monitoring and inventory efforts of both the CHR and PNP on the status of the detained and places of detention.

The human rights panel also recommended that the government "find ways" to ensure law enforcers would respect and uphold human rights. 

“[We recommend that the government] find ways to ensure that law enforcers, as duty bearers, are compliant to existing human rights laws, standards and policies, as well as to strengthen the institutional capabilities and resources to promote, respect, and fulfill human rights obligations,” the House committee said in its report.

The CHR already recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against cops at MPD Station 1.

The CHR said the cops who maintained the secret jail allegedly violated several laws in the Revised Penal Code such as arbitrary detention, grave threats, grave coercion, and robbery/extortion; and well as Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009.

The CHR also said the cops may be administratively liable for violating rules under the PNP Operational Procedures.

CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit told lawmakers on Tuesday that the cases were under preliminary investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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