De Lima presses for Senate probe on ‘secret jail cell’

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Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought a Senate investigation into the discovery of a “secret jail cell” for suspected drug offenders inside the Manila Police District Station 1 to avert a similar situation from happening in other detention facilities in the country.

De Lima, a known human rights activist, filed Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) 357 directing the appropriate Senate Committee to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the alleged detention facility found in the said police station.

“Wilfully keeping detainees in secret detention places and subjecting them to deplorable conditions, despite State sanctions against such, are condemnable and go against the sworn duties of law enforcers,” she said.

Last April 27, a team of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) discovered a hidden jail cell behind a bookshelf at the Manila Police District Station 1, Tondo, Manila where 12 suspected drug offenders were secretly locked up for more than a day.

The former justice secretary said the existence of a secret jail cell inside a PNP station goes against the country’s Constitution and laws as well as the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

“It is the State’s obligation to ensure its citizens’ freedom to live with dignity, as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution and international conventions the State is party to. Humane treatment of persons cannot be compromised even during operations against suspected offenders,” she said.

Citing several irregularities in the arrest and detention of the 12 suspected drug offenders detained in the secret jail cell on drug charges, De Lima said this latest controversy is a new low in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

“The discovery of a secret cell of illegally detained individuals in a police precinct in Manila only mirrors the complete breakdown of the rule of law in the country,” she said in her handwritten note last April 28.

De Lima has pointed out that these irregularities further validates the existence of “tokhang-for-ransom” as well as the police vigilantes’ pay-per-kill system which she said have contributed to the deterioration of the country’s rule of law.

“This is us spiraling down the bottomless pit of impunity and lawlessness, with the former law enforcers turned enforcers of lawlessness profiting from it. This is a call for our people to wake up and see the bitter truth: change has come, but not the kind we were promised or were hoping for,” she said.

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