Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered the relief of jail guards who were on duty on Saturday morning when the alleged leader of a notorious robbery group escaped from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.
“[It is] very clear to me that serious lapses were committed by the guards on duty,” De Lima said in a text message Sunday.
According to her, the duty guards would be “subjected to administrative proceedings and determination of possible criminal culpability” in addition to an investigation to find out if direct supervisors and other officials were also at fault.
“With successive incidents at NBP, the whole BuCor (Bureau of Corrections) workforce needs retraining or reorientation if not [a] complete overhaul,” she said as she added: “If I have my way, I want everyone there replaced or sacked.”
De Lima, however, stressed, that she was aware “of the laws or rules on security of tenure and due process [we have] to contend with” although she pointed out that she has been working for some time now to “replace and/or augment existing personnel with more competent, dedicated and professional ones.”
Around 6 a.m. on Saturday, three men went to the NBP’s Reception and Diagnostic Center (RDC) where Ricky Cadavero was detained.
One of them introduced himself as the lawyer of the alleged Ozamis robbery gang leader while the others said they were there to visit him.
As the jail guards were leading Cadavero out to meet his visitors, the three men took out guns and fired at them. They later escaped with Cadavero on board two motorcycles.
Cadavero, who was arrested by the police in Cavite province in October, is believed to be the leader of the notorious robbery gang which was behind several heists in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
Earlier, the National Capital Region Police Office tagged the group in at least 15 robberies, including those that took place at Robinsons Metro East,
Robinsons Galleria and Alabang Town Center.
According to De Lima, she has alerted the Philippine National Police while tracker/recovery teams have been deployed to track down the escaped prisoner.
She added that immediately after she learned of the escape, she conducted an inspection at the RDC and questioned the duty guards as well as the supervising officials.
The jailbreak was the latest controversy to hit the NBP barely a month after the justice secretary relieved NBP and BuCor officials led by NBP superintendent Ramon Reyes following the Nov. 16 grenade explosion at the maximum-security compound that left six prisoners injured.
De Lima said the incident was triggered by a rivalry between two gangs fighting over the protection of convicted drug lords detained at the facility.
Earlier, BuCor and NBP officials were also put on the spot following the abduction of high-profile convict Rolito Go and the escape of another inmate, Ramon Laciste, both in August.
Go returned to jail after his abductors, some of whom have since been arrested, released him.
Laciste, on the other hand, has also been returned to the NBP.