Maguindanao officials swap accusations over jailbreakPhilippine Daily Inquirer
COTABATO CITY—The blame game has started over the jailbreak last Tuesday at the Maguindanao provincial jail here, in which 11 prisoners, including a notorious bandit leader, escaped from the prison.
Although two of the escapees were later recaptured, the notorious Datucan Samad, alias Commander Lastikman, and 8 others have eluded a police and military manhunt.
Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu and the vice governor, Dustin Mastura, on Wednesday traded accusations concerning the former’s proposal for the construction of new jail facility which, the governor said, could have prevented the jailbreak.
Mangudadatu said he had proposed early this year that P50 million be set aside to build a new provincial jail on a 28-hectare property in Parang, Maguindanao, to replace the congested and dilapidated 60-year-old provincial jail on PC Hill here.
He said the sprawling property on which the proposed new jail was to be constructed was ideal as inmates can raise animals or engage in gardening activities.
However, the provincial board, or the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, did not act on his proposal, Mangudadatu said.
Mastura, who presides over the provincial board, claimed that the body had not received any formal request from the governor’s office on the plan to build a new jail.
“There was no official request so we didn’t have anything to act on,” he said. Had there been a formal request, the provincial board would have started deliberating on it already, Mastura said.
Mastura also said that the amount quoted, P50 million, was quite large for a jail facility.
“It would have to go through review if indeed there was such a request. We also have other priorities,” he said in a phone interview.
Chief Superintendent Mario Avenido, the police chief of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARRM), said the manhunt was continuing for the nine escaped inmates.
“A police dragnet has been spread to get back Lastikman and the other escapees before they start again with their criminal activities,” he said, adding that ARRM was coordinating with other police regions in pursuit operations.
“[Lastikman], in particular, is considered a high-risk inmate and has pending criminal cases in court, ranging from kidnapping, multiple murder, extortion and robbery,” Avenido said.
Lastikman is a former leader of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who has turned to banditry.
According to MILF spokesperson Von al Haq, he was dropped from the MILF roster.
When he was first arrested in 2009, Lastikman was jailed at the North Cotabato provincial jail in Kidapawan City. His comrades sprung him from the prison, along with several others by blasting the jail with explosives.
When he was recaptured, Lastikman was locked up at the Kidapawan City jail. His followers again tried but failed to spring him in February during an attack that killed three persons and wounded 15 others.
Meanwhile, Maguindanao provincial jail warden Odin Kasan has been sacked and, along with the guards on duty, is facing investigation over Tuesday’s jailbreak, Mangudadatu said.
“That is command responsibility. Our initial investigation showed there was laxity on the part of jail officials,” he said.
He said the jail officers should have been watchful of Lastikman, considering his past history of escaping from jail.
“Besides, jail guards should always bear in mind that a prisoner’s priority in life from day one is how to escape,” he said. Reports from Charlie Señase and Edwin Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao