COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/20 January) – Sixteen inmates bolted the city jail through the river behind it at midnight but one was arrested by village guards an hour later.
Inmates from Cell 3 at the second floor of the building sawed off the iron bars of a window that could fit only one person and climbed down the wall leading to the Rio Grande de Mindanao using an improvised rope made of blankets tied to their ends.
The inmates then swam towards freedom.
Inmates this morning shouted to reporters that the prisoners fled when jail authorities became strict and prevented them from attending their Friday sambayang (equivalent to the Catholics’ Sunday masses) at the small mosque inside the city jail.
Inspector Buenaventura Pedrita, jail warden, declined to face the media. He and the seven jail guards were later dismissed from their posts, replaced by jail personnel from General Santos City.
At around 1:00 a.m., Darwin Hervias, one of the fugitives apparently, still dripping wet, was spotted by barangay tanods (village guards) in Poblacion 7 and turned over to Police Precinct 1.
Hervias was imprisoned for robbery. He said he was awakened by his fellow inmates who were bolting the jail and decided to join them.
“Sumama na lang ako nang gisingin nila ako, tatlo na lang naiwan doon sa kulungan, 19 kami lahat” (I joined them when they woke me up. Only three were left behind. We were 19 in the cell), he said.
Most of the fugitives are facing charges of robbery, murder and drug-related offenses.
The escapees were identified as Mandi Kasubidan (charged of murder), Malik Ariman (murder), Mondo Mokamad (murder), Joko Usop (frustrated murder), Darwin Hervias (robbery), Mamalo Budsal (robbery), Allan Talisaysay (drug-related offenses), Akmad Tahir (drugs), Ranier Kamarudin (cattle rustling), Akmad Makmod (theft), (Badrudin Kamensa (estafa), Jabide Mampin (theft), Benedict delos Reyes (theft), Fermin Sabordo (theft), Ibrahim Adam (theft), Suharto Abdulah (theft).
The police, Army and the Marines have joined forces in running after the fugitives.
The last jailbreak at the Cotabato city jail was in April 2009 where 15 prisoners escaped. Only seven of them were captured. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)