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Abu Sayyaf kidnapper killed – Chief backs ‘secret cell’

This photo taken on April 27, shows people allegedly kept inside a hidden room at the Drug Enforcement Unit of the Manila Police Department’s Police Station 1 in the Tondo area of Manila. Human rights workers found a dozen people stuffed inside a dark, closet-sized jail cell hidden behind a book shelf in a Philippine police station. (AFP)

MANILA, April 29, (Agencies): The Philippines’ police chief has defended the detention of a dozen people inside a closet-sized secret cell in a case that raised further alarm about abuses under President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly war on drugs.

The government’s human rights commission discovered a dozen men and women packed into the tiny cell behind a wooden cabinet during an unannounced visit to a police station in a Manila slum neighbourhood on Thursday.

The resulting outcry saw officers suspended and an official inquiry launched, but on late Friday national police chief Ronald Dela Rosa visited the police station and defended his men’s actions. “As long as the prisoners were not tortured or extorted, it’s okay with me,” he told reporters.

The detainees have since been moved to a regular prison cell. They had told the rights commission they had been held for about a week after being arrested on allegations of drug use or trafficking and that police had demanded hefty payments in exchange for their freedom. Dela Rosa rejected the allegations and accused the rights commission, an independent government body, of plotting to embarrass Duterte’s government. The commission’s spokeswoman Jacqueline Ann de Guia denied the prison visit had been organised deliberately to coincide with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, which Duterte was hosting Saturday.

Philippine marines have killed an Abu Sayyaf extremist commander and a notorious kidnapper who had sailed across the sea border into Malaysia to snatch tourists and sailors for ransom, the military chief said Saturday. Gen Eduardo Ano told The Associated Press that Alhabsy Misaya was slain in a clash with marines late Friday in the jungles between the towns of Indanan and Parang in Sulu province. He said Misaya’s body was identified by military officials and captured Abu Sayyaf militants.

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