Bartolina

Photo shows the alleged secret lock up cell as P/Supt. Robert Domingo, chief of MPD Station 1 gives a "tour" of the alleged secret lock up cell where 12 detained individuals were found during the surprise visit conducted by members of the Commission on Human Rights in PS1, Raxa Bago in Tondo, Manila. The CHR reportedly received an information that there is a "secret holding cell" inside the station and that the police were extorting money from their relatives in exchange of their freedom, said Gilbert Boiser, director of CHR investigation office. MBPHOTO.CAMILLE ANTE

Photo shows the alleged secret lock up cell as P/Supt. Robert Domingo, chief of MPD Station 1 gives a “tour” of the alleged secret lock up cell where 12 detained individuals were found during the surprise visit conducted by members of the Commission on Human Rights in PS1, Raxabago in Tondo, Manila. Gilbert Boiser, director of CHR investigation office, said the CHR received information that there was a “secret holding cell” inside the station and that the police were extorting money from their relatives in exchange for their freedom. MBPHOTO.CAMILLE ANTE

FRONT AND CENTER in the news today was PNP Chief Bato dela Rosa’s defense of P/Supt. Robert Domingo, MPD Station 1 Commander, for maintaining the “makeshift” bartolina recently discovered by CHR personnel.

“As long as hindi sinasaktan ang detainee, at hindi kinokotongan, okay lang sa akin iyon,” Rappler reported him saying. Bato added, “Hinahamon ko ang mga human rights na yan. Gusto niyo ng inspection? Mag inspection kayo araw-araw. Wag lang kayo mag inspection, magpakitang-tao ngayon na ASEAN summit.

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The unbooked, uninquested detainees as the CHR found them on the night of April 27, 2017. (photo: gmanews.tv)

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The hidden cell was an arm’s length wide. (photo: inquirer.net)

Ten to twelve people, cheek to jowl in an area no wider than an arm’s length, sweltering in the heat (which Accuweather reports reached a high of 35°C on April 27), simmering in the stench of unwashed humanity, two urinals and a pile of garbage where ventilation should’ve been, made to wait indefinitely for booking and inquest – okay lang sa iyo iyon?! What unbelievable hubris. And what unconscionable ignorance of  the Bill of Rights.

I wonder now, are PNPA cadets even schooled in the Constitution? This is a legitimate question, seeing as the very head of the Philippine National Police displays a benighted incapacity to protect and serve it. Those Station 1 inmates did not deserve this treatment, no matter who they are and what they were charged with.

Art. III, Sec. 12 of the 1987 Constitution clearly states:

Section 12.

(1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in thepresence of counsel.

(2) No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiate the freewill shall be used against him. Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention are prohibited.

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or Section 17 hereof shall be inadmissible in evidence against him.

(4) The law shall provide for penal and civil sanctions for violations of this section as well as compensation to the rehabilitation of victims of torture or similar practices, and their families.

CHR Chair Chito Gascon said as much in his rebuttal to Bato today, but I fear General 4-star may not comprehend it. Gascon should’ve used simpler language befitting the man of the masa Bato says he is. I’m kidding. The guy is a PMA grad – of course he understands these things. This is why I am aghast and appalled at his manifest bias towards his officers. Bato should know better. 

More than the rank and file, the PNP Chief should be the staunchest defender of the citizens’ constitutional rights, especially the rights of the accused. Because of the substantial power officially levied against a detainee, the Constitution has created the means to balance it in the interest of fairness and an objective search for truth. These principles have long been valued by civilized nations; in fact, they constitute the very core of righteous societies. When we disrespect these principles, we erode the foundation of justice and demolish democracy with our own hands.

I’ve noticed a troubling penchant among PNP officials to prejudge the guilt of suspects in their custody. Cops talk about them as if they were subhuman and undeserving of space on earth, much less, in the jails. I get the impression, by their ill-hidden disgust, that they would much rather liquidate than prosecute them. Given that attitude, I am driven to conclude (and I am stating the obvious here) that Oplan Double Barrel and its Reloaded redux are merely sanitized official versions of a long-standing uncodified SOP. This reminds me of that film A Few Good Men where a couple of marines where charged for killing their milquetoast comrade on a “code red” order. “Code Red” wasn’t in their operations manual, but everyone knew what it was. Same here, apparently.

Now there is this PO1 Vincent Tacorda of Catanduanes who resigned very publicly today because, he says, he just can’t take the system anymore. “Ayoko na, ayoko na sa PNP,” he said. He claims the cops are indeed behind the EJKs, that evidence-planting is happening, and that the hauls from large drug busts in his area are not fully reported because the withheld “resources” can be used, like savings, for future ops. Is the PNP so underfunded that station chiefs must resort to these shenanigans?

One would think so, if MPD 1 station chief Domingo is to be believed. He claims he used the bookshelf to cover the controversial cell because he did not have enough personnel to guard it; he also said the detainees therein had not been processed because he only had “two investigators and one working computer” at his disposal. What a sorry state our PNP is in! Why then does it order mascots and puppets and cardboard standees of Bato and even have a statue of him installed in a children’s park in Camp Crame if the vaunted war on drugs and its regular operations are severely underfinanced?

Really, now. Maybe the raised fist gang might believe Domingo, but not all Filipinos will. I certainly don’t. Either he and his men are lying scalawags or they’re incompetent, or both. Shame on Bato for backing them prior to an investigation. Kudos to NCRPO Chief Oscar Albayalde who relieved Domingo and his men, saying that he welcomed the CHR’s efforts for uncovering the horrible conditions in the jails and for stating, contra Bato, that, “Hindi natin tinotolerate yan. This will all be investigated. Hindi natin jinujustify yung ginawa ng mga tauhan natin.”

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NCRPO Chief Albayalde inspects the hidden cell. (photo: philstar.com)

Of course, that was before Bato came on the scene. When he arrived at MPD station 1 in his nice white dress shirt, straight from a Malacañang dinner, and confronted the detainees, they either fell mum or backpedalled on their statements. He stood there in his hefty glamour, shrilly barking through the bars, “Sabihin niyo! Wag kayong matakot! Sinaktan ba kayo?! Kinotongan ba kayo? Magsalita kayo!” with a gaggle of cameras and mediafolk behind him. My, my. Even a rookie knows that’s not the way to do it.

The bottom line? I don’t feel safe these days. Not because drug addicts are at large but because the police are. I am not generalizing and I write this with the sincere hope that there are good cops out there who will make a stand for the rule of law, for justice, and for the people. I can’t count on Bato and those who kowtow to him to do that. Honestly, if there is anyone who has made me lose my faith in the PNP, it’s him.

Open your mouth for the mute,
For the rights of all the unfortunate.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

– Proverbs 31:8-9

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