Inmate in Maguindanao jailbreak keeper of keysBy Edwin Fernandez
COTABATO CITY—It was an inside job in more ways than one.
It now appears that one of the 11 inmates who escaped from the Maguindanao provincial jail here on July 10 was the keeper of the keys to at least three prison cells, a police investigation showed.
Basco Puas was a trusted inmate, having been jailed at the facility for several years, according to the city chief of police, Senior Supt. Danilo Reyes. It was not clear what Puas was serving time for.
“He was the key keeper of cell Nos. 1, 3 and 8,” Reyes said.
Some of the escapees were from these three cells, he said.
According to police investigators, Puas opened the doors of the cells after the jail’s most notorious inmate, Datucan Samad, alias Lastikman, had fled.
“The other inmates simply followed [Lastikman],” Reyes said.
Puas, Lastikman and seven other inmates remain at large.
New jail warden
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said he has already appointed a new jail warden for the Maguindanao jail in Bukid Baman.
He said Kamsa Odin, the jail warden who was sacked in the wake of the jailbreak, was being investigated.
Sawed-off iron bars
Kagem Omar, one of two escapees who was recaptured hours after the jailbreak, told reporters that it was Lastikman who had planned the escape.
“He patiently sawed off the iron grills of the toilet every night, or when the guards were not watching,” he said.
Lastikman would then rub soap on the sawed-off portions to hide the marks from the guards, he said.
When he was finally able to cut all the grills, Lastikman squeezed himself into the opening and jumped out the window, said Omar. He was met by two men riding in separate motorcycles, he said.
Omar said the other inmates knew of Lastikman’s plans but kept quiet out of fear as the notorious bandit leader is known to have loyal followers.
Escaped once before
In 2009, Lastikman’s followers sprung him from the North Cotabato provincial jail in Kidapawan City, where he was being held on robbery and kidnapping charges.
When he was recaptured a few years later, he was moved to the Kidapawan City jail where he was confined until February when his followers again tried to spring him from prison. A judge ordered him moved to the Maguindanao provincial jail.
Three persons were killed and more than a dozen were wounded during that failed rescue attempt.
Reyes said efforts to recapture Lastikman and the other escapees have not had any success so far.
Maj. Gen. Rey Ardo, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said authorities will be asking for help from the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ceasefire committee to locate the notorious fugitive.
Lastikman is a former MILF rebel commander who turned to banditry. The Muslim rebel group said he had been dropped from its roster.
Ardo said Lastikman may still have some relatives or supporters within the MILF “so we need the help of our friends in the MILF because in cases like these, the military must coordinate with the MILF.”
Under the terms of the government-MILF peace process, an operation against wanted criminals inside rebel-claimed territories had to be coordinated with the MILF.