SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Kidapawan City on Friday said a total of 53 inmates who escaped from North Cotabato District Jail on Wednesday have been accounted for, including eight who were killed and two injured, after a massive manhunt. Normalcy has been restored inside the jail facility.
Senior Supt. Emmanuel Peralta, North Cotabato police provincial director, said 43 of the inmates were recaptured, eight were killed and two were injured and are now confined in the hospital.
“With 53 inmates accounted for, there are still 105 more at large. They are the subject of a massive manhunt at the boundaries of Kidapawan City and neighboring North Cotabato towns that we are now conducting in partnership with other law enforcement agencies,” Peralta said.
Peralta assured the fugitives’ relatives that no shoot-to-kill order was issued against the escapees as long as they will not resist arrest and fight with law enforcers. He appealed to the escapees’ relatives to convince them to surrender rather than be the subject of a manhunt by law enforcers.
He asked the public to give any information to help the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recover the remaining 105 fugitives.
Nasser Esmael, alias “Commander Derbi” leading more than 100 heavily-armed men in camouflage gear, stormed the provincial jail on Wednesday in a daring midnight “rescue” of some of the high-profile inmates, leading the escape of 158 prisoners.
Five inmates, including Jail Officer 1 Excell Ray Vicedo and a barangay (village) official were killed in ensuing fire fight between security forces and the gunmen who rescued several comrades detained and being prosecuted for several heinous crimes and their alleged involvement in deadly bombings.
Supt. Peter Bongangat, the beleaguered provincial warden, admitted he only has 21 jail guards from the Bureau of Jail Management & Penology securing the facility where a total of 1,511 inmates are detained.
Commander Derbi, a former detainee of the North Cotabato provincial jail, escaped in August last year. He was facing charges of murder and bombing.
Meanwhile, Normalcy has been restored at the jail compound in Barangay Amas, Kidapawan City and the adjacent North Cotabato provincial capitol. In spite of this, security forces continue to search the vicinity for the 139 remaining escapees.
The attack was the third in about a decade after Moro guerrillas attacked the jail twice early on and set free dozens of inmates, some of them members of secessionist rebel groups.
JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL