CHR finds 12 people detained behind Tondo police station bookshelf

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 28) — A surprise inspection of a Manila police station on April 27 uncovered a secret seemingly straight out of a thriller novel.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) found 12 people detained locked up behind a sliding bookshelf inside the Manila Police District (MPD) Station 1 in Tondo.

 

CHR director Gilbert Boisar said the agency went there after receiving a tip.

The 12 detainees were accused of being involved in illegal drugs. Some of them said they have been there for eight days for crimes they did not commit.

Speaking to CNN Philippines under anonymity, a couple who admitted to being former drug runners said they have been inside the hidden cell for three days. They said they were taken outside their home by an informer with a gun.

"Dati po, tumatakbo-takbo lang po," he said. "Nung nahuli asawa ko, sabi sa amin ng pulis, 'Itigil na ninyo.' Tinigil namin. Matagal-tagal (na rin kaming tumigil), hinuli pa rin po."

[Translation: We used to do drug runs. When my wife got caught, the police told us to stop. So we stopped. We've been out of it for a while, but we were still detained.]

The man added the police were asking P40,000 for their release.

The couple said some of the other detainees were released because they paid up.

Some of the detainees also claimed they were tortured, electrocuted and beaten up.

Alleged torture

MPD Station 1 commander Bong Domingo, meanwhile, denied the allegations, but could not give a definite answer on what charges the detainees were arrested for, saying the police are still processing these.

"Hindi pa sila pwede isama sa regular jail dahil hindi pa sila inquested," he said.

[Translation: They couldn't be placed under a regular jail because they haven't been subjected to an inquest.]

He also said their regular cell can take up to 40 people, but that 70 people were already detained there.

In a press conference, Domingo said the detainees were caught on April 26 during an operation in connection with the ASEAN Summit, which is being held in Pasay City on April 28 and 29.

"Kailangan namin manghalihaw dito sa area ng Tondo yung mga would-be criminals na baka masingitan sa ASEAN," he said.

[Translation: We need to conduct operations in the Tondo area against would-be criminals who might pose a threat to the ASEAN Summit.]

Domingo also said he welcomes charges against him so that the court could decide who's telling the truth.

"At sabi ko nga sa CHR, 'Hindi ba kayo happy na the 12 of them are lahat buhay?'" he said. "Hindi naman sila lumaban."

[Translation: And I told the CHR, 'Aren't you happy that the 12 of them are all alive?' They didn't fight back.]

Past 9 p.m. on April 27, the detainees were seen being led out to a blue jeepney.

CHR officials said they underwent medical tests as part of the booking process.

CHR worries there may be other 'secret cells'  

Albayalde orders probe

Meanwhile, National Capital Region Police Office Regional Director Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde ordered an investigation into the matter. 

 

"Yes, I ordered for his administrative relief effective today to pave the way for an impartial investigation," he told CNN Philippines on April 28.

Albayalde neither confirmed nor denied the extortion allegation.

Manila police chief inspects hidden 'jail'  

CNN Philippines Digital Producer VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.