OMB junks charges vs. policemen for ‘secret jail’ in Tondo, Manila

Published April 27, 2021, 12:49 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) has dismissed the criminal and administrative charges filed by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) against four policemen who were tagged in the maintenance of a “secret detention cell” at Raxabago Police Station 1 in Tondo, Manila in 2017.

Office of the Ombudsman

Cleared of the charges were former station commander PLtCol. Robert Casimiro Domingo, PCpl. Dylan Lola Verdan, Pat. Berly Apolonio, and PMSgt. Jonathan Ochinang Ubarre.

“It is beyond dispute that the 12 newly arrested persons were detained inside a cramped space. However, there is no showing that respondents did so in bad faith,” the OMB’s joint resolution reasoned.

“Since the burden of proof lies with the CHR, it was incumbent upon said office to prove that there was another available confinement area which is better than the one where said detainees were locked up, but that respondents intentionally and maliciously refused to accord them such,” it added.

The CHR investigated the police station on April 27, 2017 and found a detention cell measuring one meter by five meters with a wooden shelf serving as its decor. Inside the cell were three female and nine male detainees who were arrested for violating Republic Act No. 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The cell was described as “cramp[ed], dingy, fetid and dark.” Since there was only one male urinal, some of the detainees were forced to urinate and defecate in public bags.

The CHR claimed that the names of the detainees were not even recorded in the logbook and alleged that they were unlawfully arrested, no food was provided to them, and the police even demanded money in exchange for their release. Apolonio was even accused of beating the detainees.

Domingo said in his defense that their detention cells can accommodate only 40 male and 10 female detainees. But when the CHR made its investigation, the police station already had a total of 78 detainees. Verdan, Ubarre, and Apolonio failed to submit counter-affidavits.

The OMB ultimately found that the CHR failed to establish probable cause against the respondents for the crimes of Arbitrary Detention and Delay in the Delivery of Detained Persons to the Proper Judicial Authority. There was likewise no proof that the detained persons were being held beyond the period allowed by law, it said.

As for the reported maltreatment of prisoners, robbery, extortion, among other allegations, the OMB found they were “not supported by independent, impartial and credible evidence.”

The joint resolution was written by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Myra Dela Rama-Gargaceran with the concurrence of Acting Director Dyna I. Camera. Both Acting Assistant Ombudsman Dennis L. Garcia and Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices Cyril E. Ramos approved the resolution.