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Rodrigo Duterte

‘Here we are, here we are’: Dozens of detainees found stuffed inside secret Philippine jail linked to drug war

Human Rights Watch said the finding was the latest abuse linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on illegal drugs, which has left thousands dead since last yea

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 April, 2017, 2:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 April, 2017, 11:04pm

Philippine police relieved a station chief and his staff on Friday after human rights representatives discovered a secret jail cell inside the Manila station where a dozen detainees complained they were being held for extortion.

Human Rights Watch said the finding was the latest abuse linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on illegal drugs, which has left thousands dead since last year.

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The commission’s representatives on Thursday led reporters to the dark, cramped passage that was hidden behind a bookshelf at the Raxabago station in Manila’s impoverished Tondo district.

Cries of “here we are, here we are” were heard from behind a wall, according to the rights workers and journalists. The rights workers then found a hidden door behind a bookshelf, leading to the cell.

The men and women held inside told reporters their families had not been told where they were. They said they were tortured by police who demanded bribes of between US$800-US$4,000 for their freedom, Human Rights Watch said.

Stunned detainees came stumbling out of the room, some begging for water while others, in tears, pleaded with the rights workers not to abandon them.

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The detainees said that inadequate lighting, ventilation, and toilet facilities forced them “to urinate and [do] bowel movements in plastic bags”, according to Commission on Human Rights Director of National Capital Region Gilbert Boisner, who led the discovery.

“They were picked up on the pretext of drugs but they had not filed any charges against them,” Boisner said.

The station’s commander Superintendent Robert Domingo denied allegations of torture and extortion and said the cell was used because the main lock-up facility was overcrowded with drug suspects.

Domingo and the station’s drug enforcement unit were relieved on Friday by the Metro Manila police director Oscar Albayalde. He told ABS-CBN television that their removal will pave the way for an impartial investigation.

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“He [Domingo] will undergo an administrative case. If evidence warrants, a criminal case will also be filed against him and the persons involved,” national police spokesman Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said in a statement.

The detainees were transferred to the station’s drug unit facility and police said they were still facing drug charges.

Boisner said there had been no record of the detainees’ arrests and inquest proceedings.

Additional reporting by Agence Presse-France