Ombudsman clears 4 cops behind Manila secret jail


April 27, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed the criminal and administrative cases filed by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) against four police officers who allegedly illegally detained 12 people, including three women, in a secret cell in Tondo, Manila in 2017.

In a 10-page resolution, the ombudsman cleared Lt. Col. Roberto Domingo, M/Sgt. Jonathan Ubarre, Cpl. Dylan Verdan and Pat. Berly Apolonio, all assigned at the Manila Police District Station 1 in Raxabago, of arbitrary detention, grave threats, grave coercion, extortion, maltreatmeant of prisoners and grave misconduct.

The ombudsman said there was not enough proof of bad faith on the part of the police in holding the suspects in a dark, cramped space behind a bookshelf where there was no ventilation.

The CHR asked the ombudsman to reconsider the dismissal of the cases against the police officers.

Calling it a setback in its bid to eliminate the use of secret detention facilities, the CHR said the “shocking and dehumanizing violations” against the rights of those detained in the secret cell necessitate accountability.

The CHR said it filed the charges to ensure accountability among erring police officers.

“Scalawags among the police ranks will not be dealt with if those who have committed violations, particularly concerning fundamental human rights, are not held to account,” the commission said.

The CHR, which led the raid of the detention facility, said the liability of the police officers not only breached human rights but their own police operational procedures.

The commission noted that the existence of hidden jails is prohibited in the Constitution and the Anti-Torture Act to prevent abuses and violations against detainees.


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