Drug lord funded jailbreak in Kidapawan, says gov
KIDAPAWAN CITY—A suspected drug lord known as “Hapon,” one of those who bolted the North Cotabato District Jail (NCDJ) on Jan. 4, had financed the prison attack that allowed 158 inmates to flee the facility, acting Gov. Shirlyn Macasarte-Villanueva said.
Villanueva, in a press conference here on Tuesday, said Melvin Casangyao, known here as “Hapon,” contracted the group of Esmael Nasser, another inmate known as “Commander Derbi,” to plan the attack that would allow inmates to escape.
Villanueva said an investigation ordered by the provincial government showed Casangyao had arranged to pay P1 million for his rescue. The governor, however, did not provide details on the transaction.
Of the 158 inmates who escaped, 49 were rearrested and 10 were killed in a shoot out with policemen pursuing them, reports said. Police are still hunting 99 fugitives.
Nasser, who authorities said coordinated the attack, was the suspect in the 2013 murder of Vice Mayor Policarpio Dulay of Kabacan town. He was also the suspect in the series of bombings in Kabacan, among these the November 2014 bombing at the University of Southern Mindanao campus, where one died and 17 others were wounded.
Nasser was arrested in November 2015, but he escaped the NCDJ in August last year with two suspected Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters members. Nasser was later rearrested and returned to NCDJ.
Villanueva said Nasser’s affiliation with any criminal or terror group was unclear, despite his association with BIFF members. She said some reports had identified him as a former Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander but they have yet to confirm this.
The investigation showed that Casangyao and Nasser had developed a close friendship inside the jail.
Villanueva said on top of the P1 million deal, Casangyao also promised to give Nasser’s group two .60-cal. machine guns and ammunition if he would be rescued.
“We [were shown] a report that he will pay [another] P1 million to Derbi once the attack becomes successful,” Villanueva said.
The fear of being shot dead or even burned alive prompted some of the inmates to join the fleeing prisoners even if they were not keen on escaping.
Nilo Cadungog, a 39-year-old former militiaman detained for frustrated murder at NCDJ, said the heavily armed men ordered the inmates to run or be shot.
“They also told us if we will not leave our cell, they will set the provincial jail on fire, so I joined the group and ran,” he said.
“I have no plan to escape at all,” he added.
Cadungog said he decided to separate from the other escapees and went home by hiring a “habal-habal” (passenger motorcycle) to Barangay Tonganon in Carmen. He arrived home on Thursday night, with his family members shelling out P500 to pay for the ride.
Cadungog turned himself in to authorities on Friday last week, two days after the jailbreak, when he learned that some of his fellow fugitives were killed in the manhunt.
“He feared for his life and opted to surrender,” said Chief Insp. Julius Malcontento, Carmen town police chief, to whom Cadungog surrendered.
Cadungog said he only stayed home for a night and decided to yield the next day.
“If I really intended to escape for good, I would not have surrendered,” he said.
Jomel Caguio, who is facing illegal drug charges, said he believed the gunmen’s warning to kill those who will not join the jailbreak.
He dashed to his freedom and later found himself in Barangay Abra in Matalam town, which is near Barangay Amas, where the jail is located.
Caguio’s freedom was short-lived as exhaustion and weakness overcame him.
Unable to run farther, he was found by Abra village officials who arrested him and turned him over to provincial jail authorities.