Surprise CHR visit exposes ‘secret’ cell, 12 illegal detainees in Manila police station

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The entrance to the 'secret cell' of Manila Police District Station 1. (image from News5 video)

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE – 8:34 a.m.) Personnel of the Commission on Human Rights visiting a police station in Tondo, Manila, Thursday evening found a dozen detainees crammed into a dark, narrow, airless “secret cell”.

The room, hidden behind a cabinet in Manila Police Station 1 on Raxabago Street, was discovered amid the country’s hosting of the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Leaders’ Summit and Related Meetings and days after the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court was asked to investigate President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 other government officials for alleged crimes against humanity and mass murder over the thousands of deaths in the war on drugs.

Lawyer Brenda Canapi of the CHR’s visitorial division. (image from News5 video)

CHR personnel descended on the station to check on reports that persons were being detained without being charged. They stumbled onto something even more shocking. “It’s not humane,” lawyer Brenda Canapi of the CHR’s visitorial division, said of the room where detainees — nine men and three women who police said were all drug suspects — claimed they had been kept for as long a week without charges being filed against them.

Some of them also accused the policemen, under the command of Superintendent Robert Domingo, of torture and demanding money in exchange for their freedom.

Domingo denied all the allegations, saying they were all arrested overnight Wednesday in a “one time, big time” operation and maintaining it was the detainees’ “word against mine.”

MPD Station 1 commander Superintendent Robert Domingo. (image from News5 video)

A commotion broke out when Station 1 personnel stopped the CHR personnel, led by National Capital Region director Gilbert Boiser, from taking the detainees with them. Boiser said they would study what charges to file against the Station 1 personnel.

As of this posting, Domingo has been ordered relieved by National Capital Region Police Office director Oscar Abayalde, who will be inspecting MPD Station 1.

WATCH THE VIDEO REPORT BY NEWS5’S JENNY DONGON: