North Cotabato Gov urges Sueno to relieve provincial jail warden  

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 06 January) —  North Cotabato’s acting Governor Shirley Macasarte-Villanueva has asked Local Governments Secretary Ismael Sueno to relieve the provincial jail warden pending investigation of his alleged negligence that led to Wednesday’s bloody jailbreak.

In a letter to Sueno Friday afternoon, Macasarte said that “upon initial observations and reports about the incident, there has been indication of lapses of and negligence that can possibly be attributable to him,” referring to provincial jail warden, Superintendent Peter John Bongngat, Jr.

A total of 160 inmates escaped in the early hours of January 4 when armed men stormed the North Cotabato District Jail (NCDJ) in Amas, Kidapawan City. A jail guard was killed.

Combined elements from the Army and the Cotabato Provincial Police Office  patrol the national highway near Amas Capitol Compound in Kidapawan City Wednesay, January 4 as they search for the 160 inmates who escaped from the North Cotabato District Jail following a raid by at least 100 armed men at the provincial jail inside the capitol compound. MindaNews photo

Macasarte said that of the 160, 44 had been captured and turned over to the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP), 10 were killed while two others were injured.  A total of 104 fugitives have yet to be accounted for.

“In order to provide an objective atmosphere in our intention to look deeply into the surrounding circumstances of the said incident, I am respectfully requesting that JSupt. Peter Bongngat Jr. temporarily vacate his position and an officer-in-charge be designated for the meantime,” she said.

On Wednesday, Sueno said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was assisting government troops in pursuing the fugitives.

Sueno told MindaNews in a telephone interview that initial reports they received said about a hundred armed men led by a Kumander Derbi, a fugitive from the same jail last year, stormed the NCDJ. The armed men were reportedly a combined team from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the MILF.

But Sueno said he spoke with Sammy Al-Mansour,  Chief of Staff of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) and the latter denied involvement in the attack. He said Al-Mansour also denied the MILF has a commander named Derbi.

Sueno added that Al Mansour assured him the MILF would assist government troops in running after the fugitives.

A press release from Sueno’s office on Wednesday quoted him as saying Al Mansour “expressed willingness to run after the escaped inmates and they will coordinate with  government troops if the escapees hide or take refuge in their areas of control.”

The government and the MILF signed a peace agreement — the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro — in March 2014.

On July 12 this year,  the DILG and MILF signed an “agreement of cooperation and coordination” to strengthen the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign in Central Mindanao.

Sueno told MindaNews Wednesday afternoon the armed men’s motive was “gusto pagawason ang mga Muslim inmates pero wala nakagawas ang upat” (they wanted four inmates out but the four remained locked up in their cells).

He said most of those who escaped were not Moro and that most of them were detained within the provincial jail compound but were not locked up in a cell because there are not enough cells for the 1,500 inmates.

Sueno said BJMP Director Serafin Baretto flew to Mindanao Wednesday to check on the jail and ensure there would be no repeat of the incident. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas)