We often hear horror tales of abuse and torture chambers in prison cells, but most likely dismiss them as urban legends or gossips. However, with the recent discovery of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) it seems that the scenes from the movies are actually not far from reality.

CHR made a surprise visit to Manila Police District Station 1 in Tondo, Manila after receiving some tips that some people without any pending cases or warrant have been detained for almost one week. Upon their visit last Thursday, they found a ‘secret cell’ hidden behind a cabinet.

Secret Detention Facility in Tondo Police Station
The representatives from CHR heard voices behind the cabinet and when the moved it, they found eleven people, including some women, who were said to arrested following an operation.

According to a report by Jamie Santos for GMA News ‘State of the Nation with Jessica Soho,’ the ‘detainees’ told CHR that they were being ‘extorted’ Php 40,000 to Php200,000 in exchange for their freedom. Some allegedly even experienced torture.

However, Supt. Robert Domingo, station commander of Manila Police District Station 1, denied the allegations stating that what CHR discovered was not a ‘secret cell’ but a holding room.

"Holding Room" not Secret Cell

According to him, the ‘holding room’ where the detainees were found, is also where the police from anti-illegal drug unit hold their meetings.

The official explained that detainees are held separately from ‘regular jail’ because the latte is already full and the detainees found in the ‘holding room’ are still for inquest or yet to be charged with cases.
They also followed this procedure after they received a complaint from CHR when they found out that detainees who were not yet charged were also detained with regular prisoners.

Read: Man Arrested for Extorting Money from Basketball Player Kiefer Ravena

That’s the reason he changed the system after he took office. He also denied allegations that detainees were being extorted money.

Domingo also said that the people found inside the ‘holding room’ were arrested just Thursday morning following the visit from CHR in contrast to the information the latter received that they were detained for one week.

CHR Spokesperson Jackie De Guia said they would continue their investigation if the police violated Republic Act 9745 or Anti-Torture Law of 2009.

According to De Guia, secret detention places causes mental or psychological torture so they have to verify if this was indeed maintained in secret. She added that it is not normal for a detention facility to be behind furniture such as a bookshelf.

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