Duterte slammed over discovery of abused prisoners in secret cell in Manila
The cramped, windowless cell, hidden behind a bookshelf in Manila Police Station 1, was uncovered Thursday during an unannounced visit by a team from the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights.
Duterte told reporters Friday that he would “look into” the exposed jail cell.
The detainees claimed they had been abused and that police were demanding between $600 and $2,000 for their release, according to local media reports. Police denied the allegations.
The human rights investigator, Gilbert Boisner, told local media that the prisoners were forced to “to urinate and (do) bowel movements in plastic bags.”
Station superintendent Robert Domingo and a dozen officers were suspended and an internal investigation was announced.
The discovery drew quick condemnation from human rights groups, who have loudly opposed Duterte’s controversial war on drugs, which has left more than 8,000 dead in the nine months he’s been in office.
“The discovery of the secret jail is just the latest sign of how police are exploiting Duterte’s abusive anti-drug campaign for personal gain,” said Phelim Kine, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch. “Expect unlawful police abuses in the name of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ to continue until the United Nations establishes an urgently needed independent, international investigation into the killings and the secret jails that are part of it.”
Amnesty International also called for an independent investigation.
“Crucially, nobody should be under any illusions that the same police force that allowed thousands of killings to happen under its nose can be trusted to investigate itself now,” Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement. “There must be independent oversight of this and all investigations and a thorough review of all violations and abuses by police in the ‘war on drugs.”
Philippine lawmakers are demanding a probe into the secret cell.
House deputy minority leader Harry Roque Jr. said he will file a resolution seeking a congressional inquiry when Congress resumes on May 2.
“I find it profoundly disturbing that these men and women were 1) illegally detained – because there appears to be no records of their arrest – and 2) subjected to cruel, degrading, and inhumane conditions,” he said in a press statement.
One of the president’s most outspoken critics, Sen. Leila de Lima, claimed that abuses of power were taking place under Duterte’s administration.
“Once we allowed a mass murderer to take the helm of government and carry out a criminal policy of extrajudicial killings, there is pretty much nothing else that cannot be done with impunity under his regime,” she said.
De Lima, who previously headed a Senate judiciary committee probe into the war on drugs, was arrested in February on charges of drug trafficking. She and her supporters say the arrest was politically motivated.