One of Cotabato jail escapees was keeper of cell keysBy Edwin Fernandez
COTABATO CITY – It turns out that one of the 11 inmates who escaped from the Maguindanao Provincial Jail here early Tuesday had been entrusted by jailguards with the keys to at least three cells, investigators said Friday.
Senior Supt. Danilo Reyes, Cotabato City police chief, said Basco Puas was a trusted inmate, having been jailed at the facility for several years already although it was not immediately clear what he was in jail for.
“He was key keeper of cell numbers 1, 3 and 8,” Reyes said, adding some of the escapees were from those cells.
Reyes said why the cell keyes would be entrusted to the care of an inmate was among the issues being investigated.
Although Cotabato City is no longer officially part of Maguindanao province, the city’s police is investigating the jailbreak as the 60-year-old facility is located on the city’s PC Hill, near the police headquarters.
Reyes said investigators found that Puas opened the door of the other cells after Datucan Samad, alias Lastikman, an allegedly notorious bandit, had fled the jail.
“That’s why the other inmates simply followed him,” Reyes said.
Puas, Lastikman and six other inmates remain at large. Inmate Kagem Omar, who was recaptured hours after the jailbreak, told reporters that it was Lastikman who planned the escape.
“He patiently sawed off the iron grills on the toilet’s window each night or when guards were not watching,” he said.
He said Lastikman would rub soap on the iron grills to hide the cuts from guards.
When he was able to finally cut all the grills, Omar said, Lastikman squeezed himself out of the window and out onto the street, where he was met by two men on separate motorcycles.
Omar said other inmates knew of Lastikman’s plan but did not tell the authorities for fear of reprisals as the man is known to have loyal followers.
In 2009, his followers also sprung him from the North Cotabato provincial jail in Kidapawan City, where he had been locked up on robbery and kidnapping charges.
In 2009, his followers also sprung him out of the North Cotabato provincial jail in Kidapawan City, where he was being locked up on robbery and kidnapping charges.
Recaptured a few years later, Lastikman was thrown in the Kidapawan City jail where he was locked up until last February, when his followers tried but failed to spring him out jail in an attack in which three people were killed and 12 others were wounded. A judge subsequently ordered him moved to the Maguindanao Provincial Jail.
Reyes said efforts to recapture Lastikman and the remaining fugitives were continuing.
Maj. Gen. Rey Ardo, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said her planned to ask for help recapture Lastikman from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s ceasefire committee.
Ardo said Lastikman may have some relatives or supporters in the MILF as he was once a member.
“So we need the help of our friends in the MILF because in cases like these, the military must coordinate with the MILF,” Ardo said.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said he has appointed a new jail warden in Bukid Baman.
Mangudadatu said Kamsa Odin, the sacked jail warden, was still being investigated.