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CHR discovers 'hidden cell' with 11 detainees in Tondo police station

A surprise inspection by Commission on Human Rights (CHR) personnel on a police station in Tondo, Manila, on Thursday afternoon led to the discovery of a hidden lock-up cell where 11 individuals, including women, were detained.

The cell, which was small, cramped and has no electricity, was discovered behind a cabinet, according to a report by GMA News' Jamie Santos on State of the Nation with Jessica Soho.

The report said the CHR conducted the surprise visit following a tip from an informant regarding extortion being done by policemen on arrested individuals.

The report said the detainees claim the policemen were asking P40,000 to P200,000 from them in exchange for their freedom. They also accused the policemen of torturing them to make them admit to the crime they did not commit.

The detainees — some of them emotional when they saw the CHR personnel — claimed they were locked up in that cell for a week already.

Investigation room

But according to Supt. Robert Domingo, the station commander, those who were detained in the cell were those who have yet to undergo inquest proceedings. He also denied that it was a hidden detention cell but an "investigation room."

"Yung sinasabi nilang tagong kulungan, hindi po yun tagong kulungan iyon. Holding area po iyon. Doon yung investigation room ng Drug Enforcement Unit," he said when interviewed by news anchor Jessica Soho.

He said the cabinet that covered the cell was merely "pantakip."

Domingo also mentioned that his predecessor was sued by the CHR for putting detainees who have yet to undergo inquest proceedings in the same jail cell with those who already did.

"Kaya nung pumalit ako, binago ko yung ganoong sistema with my own initiative. Hindi ipapasok sa regular jail hangga't di pa napa-process o naiimbestigahan ang isang tao," he said.

Domingo also denied that the room had no electricity, but admitted that it has no light due to a defective light bulb.

No extortion

On the accusation that they were extorting money from the detainees, Domingo said: "[It's] their words against our words. Alegasyon na lamang po nila 'yan, ma'am."

The State of the Nation report said the police did not allow the CHR personnel to bring the detainees with them. The police also claimed the detainees were arrested only on Thursday morning during a "one-time, big-time" operation. 

CHR vows probe

For her part, CHR spokesperson Jackie De Guia said they will continue their investigation to determine whether the policemen violated Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law of 2009.

"Malinaw kasi dun na mental o psychological torture ang pagmi-maintain ng secret detention places, at dapat naming siyasatin kung itong detention facility nga ay isang hayag na detention facility or yung sinasabi nating secret detention facility," she said in a separate interview. 

She also said they would look into the physical condition of the detainees amid claims of torture.

De Guia also said based on their inspection, the detention room found by the CHR personnel do not look "regular" as claimed by the police.

"Hindi po normal na itinatago ang detention facility sa likod ng mga kagamitan tulad ng bookshelf," she said. — KBK, GMA News