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Solons grill Manila cops over secret detention cell

Lawmakers grilled yesterday the officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) over the supposed secret detention facility in Raxabago Police Station in Tondo, Manila

Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Correctional Reforms, led the lawmakers in questioning the PNP officials over the secret detention cells allegedly maintained by the PNP as part of Duterte government’s war against illegal drugs.

He asked Senior Supt. Romeo Sta. Ana Jr. of NCRPO Regional Internal Affairs Service who lead the probe into the incident, whether the detention facility is secret, which the later replied negatively.

Sta. Ana said the facility is used as a “temporary holding area” for the suspects, even as he pointed out that based on their investigation, the detainees “are negative of torture.”

During the hearing, Compostela Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga chided Sta. Ana for failing to include in his report allegations that the drug suspects were supposed to have been kept in that secret detention facility until they pay for their freedom for about P40,000.00 to P200,000.00.

Sta. Ana said they did not conduct an investigation on the allegations as they are focused on the issue of “secret detention facility” and ‘torture’ allegations.

After being grilled by Gonzaga, he eventually admitted that the condition in the detention cell is “below par” the human living conditions “because of congestion.”

On April 27, a team from the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) found about 12 men and women allegedly illegally detained in a secret detention cell hidden behind a bookshelf in Police Station 1 in Tondo, Manila.

According to the CHR, only male urinal is available inside the hidden cell so the detainees were forced to defecate into plastics bags. It added that that the detainees also slept sitting down.

Sta. Ana said they did not include the human conditions in the cell in their investigative report.

Oaminal and Deputy Speaker and Cadiz Rep. Fredenil Castro also took turns in grilling Manila Police District Director Chief Superintendent Joel Coronel and NCRPO Director Oscar Albayalde.

Coronel, who assumed as MPD Chief on July 1, 2016, maintained that the cell is not a secret detention facility. He even noted that the facility was an old storage room converted into the cell to address the congestion in the Raxabago Police Station.

He noted that in several command conferences, he brought up the issue of congested and overcrowded cells to the PNP national headquarters. (Charisa M. Luci)