Tondo police officials relieved after 'secret jail cell' exposed

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WATCH: 12 people detained behind shelves in Manila Police Station

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 28) — The chief of the Tondo police station in Manila and 12 others were relieved from their posts on Friday following the discovery of people detained behind a sliding bookshelf.

Metro Manila police chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde announced on Friday the relief of Manila Police District Station 1 commander S/Supt. Robert Domingo and 12 members of the station's Drug Enforcement Unit headed by Senior Inspector Edwin Fuggan pending an investigation.

The police station detained 12 people linked to illegal drugs. Some claimed they were held for eight days without an inquest. But Albayalde said they were arrested only on Thursday.

A detainee claimed the police asked for P40,000 for their release. Others claimed they were tortured.

Albayalde orders probe

Albayalde vowed a thorough investigation by the PNP-Internal Affairs Service.

"Hindi natin tinotolerate yan. This will all be investigated. Hindi natin jinujustify yung ginawa ng mga tauhan natin," he said.

[Translation: We do not tolerate it. This will all be investigated. We are not justify the actions of our officers.]

Domingo refused to give a statement to the media.

Police welcomes CHR inspection

Officers of the Commission on Human Rights went to the Manila Police District Station 1 Thursday night after receiving a tip.

The 12 detainees were cramped in a one meter by 6 meter makeshift holding room.

Albayalde denied the persons were held in a "secret jail cell," adding a bookshelf was used to block entry to the room because it has no door.

"It's not really secret. Parang daanan siya na sinara lang. Ang sabi ng station commander, temporarily 'yun lang ang ginawa niyang staging area while the suspects are being conducted and booking nila ay ginagawa," Albayalde said.

Albayalde said overcrowded cells forced the station officials to temporarily use the area as a holding facility.

He added the police welcome the surprise inspection to highlight the issue of overcrowding in jails.

"Basically talagang wala naman sa standard no?... Kaya welcome na welcome po yung ginawa ng Commission on Human Rights para inspekin yung mga naka detain natin. That is a welcome development for all of us," he said.

Albayalde said detention facilities got crowded when the administration carried out its war on drugs.

The Commission on Human Rights said it is willing to recommend cases against the police officers once the investigation is complete. Among possible cases are illegal detention and torture.