Normalcy slowly returning in beleaguered North Cotabato jail as manhunt for escaped inmates continues

Manhunt continues for the remaining inmates who fled North Cotabato District Jail (NCDJ) as normalcy is slowly restored inside the jail facility, police and jail officials said Thursday.

"Manhunt against the remaining 139 inmates continue and has expanded to include nearby provinces," Supt. John Peter Bongngat, jail warden, said.

About 100 gunmen armed with assault rifles, rifle grenades wearing camouflage uniform, stormed the ill-manned and dilapidated jail compound.

They first fired at the power transformer that sent the entire compound into total darkness and "rescued" four high profile inmates who were members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

As the four fled, the gunmen, led by Nasser Esmael alias "Commander Derbi," also fired at the padlocks of other cells paving the way for other inmates to escape.

On the second day of the manhunt, Supt. Emmanuel Peralta, North Cotabato police director, said 20 inmates have been accounted for. Of this number, 12 were recaptured, six were killed and two were wounded and remained under close watch at the North Cotabato provincial hospital.

Classes will resume Friday in at least five public schools near Barangay Amas, Kidapawan City, according to Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista. He ordered class suspension Wednesday hours after the attack.

Wednesday's attack was the third in the same jail facility. The latest had the biggest number of escapees in Philippine history.

Chief Inspector Joyce Birrey, speaking for North Cotabato provincial police office, said the police offices in the province have opened their door for the surrender of any escapee who may want to turn themselves in.

Birrey said relatives of inmates may approach local officials for assistance so they will no longer be running away from the law.

Bongngat admitted that the jail facility is only manned by 21 jail guards, including him, securing the two-hectare compound populated by 1,511 inmates, about a dozen of them high risk detainees charged for bombings, kidnapping and involvement in drug syndicates.

North Cotabato acting Governor Shirlyn Macasarte also directed village officials to report to police any escapee who might be hiding in their communities.

Keeping escapees or persons wanted by law is a punishable offense, she told local officials.

Both Peralta and Bongngat are optimistic most if not all the escapees will soon be accounted for soon.

Source: Philippines News Agency