By Chito Chavez
The Commission on Human Rights has expressed grave concern by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Internal Affairs Service (IAS) report citing that more than 450 inmates have died under police custody in the current administration.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia noted the number of fatalities included the recent deaths of eight inmates inside the New Bilibid Prison supposedly due to dehydration.
She stressed the appalling situation of inmates in the over-congested and dilapidated detention facilities is in itself a gross violation of the rights of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) as it has led to deaths and a lot of health and sanitation problems among prisoners.
De Guia noted the authorities’ direct denial of basic needs to inmates such as clean water supply, food, medicines, sleeping quarters among others, is a disregard of the Constitution and the minimum standards set by the UN for prisoners.
To explain further, de Guia said PDLs should be treated with full respect and dignity as human beings and shall always be given protection against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
The CHR said the reported cases of authorities’ use of unnecessary force against PDLs inside jails must never be tolerated.
“The Commission understands that law enforcement groups are implementing tighter security measures to avoid entry of contrabands and curb illegal activities inside prisons but this does not justify any form of abuse behind bars,’ de Guia said.
However, de Guia said the CHR welcomes the initiative of the PNP-IAS to map out the causes of deaths and where they happened and what alleged violations of laws these inmates were detained for to find out if there are any irregularities on the part of the police.
“If found guilty, administrative and criminal complaints must be filed against erring cops to bring justice to the families of inmates who did not die of natural death,’’ de Guia asserted.
Also, the CHR remains hopeful that the investigation will yield a more targeted solution in alleviating the condition of our prisoners given their unique vulnerabilities to experience abuse.
De Guia said the CHR will conduct an independent investigation and hopes to have an open coordination with the PNP-IAS in probing into these deaths and coming up with recommendations in accordance with human rights standards.