GOVERNOR Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza on Wednesday ordered a probe on Monday’s hostage-taking incident in North Cotabato provincial penitentiary, expressing disgust over an alleged cover-up of the incident by facility’s officials.
Leaders of 834 inmates, complaining of lack of food supply and alleged “sexual advances” on female visitors by male jail guards, hogtied SJO3 Samuel Sunico on Monday and freed him after four hours only after journalists and emissaries of the governor arrived to listen to their grievances.
Mendoza, chairperson of the provincial peace and order council, said she was dismayed after realizing that Bureau of Jail Management and Penology officials tried to downplay the incident as just a “drill” when she sought for an update on the incident during the height of the hostage situation.
“I have asked the provincial board to investigate on that cover up attempt. That’s something I will never take very lightly,” Mendoza said.
Sunico is a trained “dance therapist” handling rehabilitative psycho-social dance lessons for inmates.
Responding police investigators said the unsuspecting Sunico was about to start his morning session with inmates when the hostage-takers subdued him, tied his hands and feet and forced him to sit on a chair at the center of a basketball court inside the jail compound at Barangay Amas to attract public attention.
Mendoza was ranting on the incident since it was her administration that transferred, through a written agreement, the control of the jail to the BJMP from the provincial government on the premise of better management. She vowed to address squarely the complaints of the inmates immediately.
She also ordered the BJMP provincial officials to refrain from allowing “trustees” to leave the jail premises to do errands, saying that two or more prisons had gone missing through the scheme.
Chief Inspector Janeth Espartero, warden of the provincial jail, was reported as documenting Monday’s incident in preparation for the filing of corresponding cases against the hostage-takers. She denied the inmates’ allegations of abuses or mismanagement in her facility.
Leaders of the 834 inmates represented by one Alex yielded a two-page document detailing 14 demands cum complaints ranging from lack of food supply to alleged sexual advances on female visitors of the jail facility.
A former jail mess officer, prior to his seeking of transfer outside North Cotabato three months ago, disclosed to a journalist an alleged “excessive cut” in the P1.2-million budget for food of inmates at the local penitentiary.
Other sources said jail guards were also allegedly selling cigarettes and liquor to inmates at exorbitant prices. Moh I. Saaduddin