The Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday raised alarm over the rising number of deaths of inmates under police custody, a situation police authorities said they would investigate posthaste.
Lawyer-spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia reacted to the report of the Philippine National Police’s Internal Affairs Service that over 450 inmates have died under detention, including the recent deaths of eight inmates inside the New Bilibid Prison due to dehydration.
She lamented the appalling situation of inmates in overly congested and dilapidated detention facilities, saying such was a gross violation of the rights of persons deprived of liberty.
She said the sorry state of the prisoners could cause their deaths and a lot of health sanitation problems.
“But 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 United Nations for prisoners,” the CHR said.
The Internal Affairs Service had said there were 487 prisoners who died while detained in the different police detention cells nationwide from July 2016 to September 2019.
Of the number, eight died due to different illness, four for gunshot wounds, two were mauled by their co-detainees, 343 due to problems in congestion of cells, 15 due to shortness of breath, while the rest died of other causes.
PNP spokesman Bernard Banac said the police leadership would conduct an investigation as to why the detainees died.
De Guia said prisoners must be treated with full respect and dignity as human beings and shall always be given protection against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
She said reported cases of authorities’ use of unnecessary force against prisoners 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.
She said they welcome 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.
The PNP said 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 said they are hoping that the investigation would yield a more targeted solution in alleviating the condition of our prisoners given their unique vulnerabilities to experience abuse.
She said CHR would also conduct its own probe.
Meanwhile, the Metro Manila police said it withdrew 200 officers from the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa after 16 of them were accused of smuggling contraband items into the national penitentiary.
The group was assigned back to the headquarters of the National Capital Region Police Office, said its chief, Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas.
The 16 officers who allegedly brought tobacco, 2 liters of alcohol and cellphones inside Bilibid were placed on floating status while facing administrative investigation, he told reporters.
Investigators are also studying filing a criminal case against them, said Sinas.
The 16 officers allegedly sold liquor to prisoners for P10,000 to P20,000 per liter. With Francisco Tuyay
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