NPA admits holding jail warden prisoner
DAVAO CITY – A New People’s Army unit operating in the Davao provinces has admitted having in its custody the provincial jail warden of Compostela Valley, who was forcibly taken by armed men in Panabo City on Dec. 23.
Aris Francisco, NPA spokesperson for Compostela Valley, and the Davao and Agusan provinces, said that Jose Mervin Coquilla was “arrested outside his house” and will be subjected to “an investigation.”
He was initially taken with his wife, Lijobeth, but the latter was freed.
Francisco said on Friday the NPA decided to take Coquilla into custody “to determine his individual culpability with respect to the complaints lodged against him before the People’s Democratic Government by jail inmates and their families.”
Among the complaints against Coquilla, he said, were “willful negligence in the supervision of inmates and his direct and indirect, overt and covert participation (in) drug trade and drug use inside the Compostela Valley jail.”
“Coquilla has allegedly siphoned off funds, which are already slashed by high officials of the… state prison. According to the complaints received by the NPA, Coquilla’s corruption has resulted in the inadequate medical and health care and food provision for inmates,” Francisco said in an emailed statement on Friday.
He said Coquilla also tolerated the physical abuse of prisoners by jail guards.
Francisco said the jail warden turned a blind eye on inmates caught using illegal drugs and jail guards, who were supposed to be ferreting drugs inside the prison cells.
“While currently undergoing investigation for his possible involvement in these acts, Coquilla is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, and as such, is being treated leniently and humanely by the NPA custodial force, for as long as guerrilla conditions warrant,” Francisco said.
Chief Insp. Levitico Estay, Davao del Norte police spokesperson, said the NPA initially wanted Coquilla to be swapped for a comrade detained at the Compostela Valley provincial rehabilitation in Mankilam village in Tagum City.
Citing the account of Coquilla’s wife, Estay said the abductors told her before setting her free that the warden would be freed if one of their comrades is released from the provincial jail.
Estay would not identify the inmate the rebels wanted released from jail.
Managed by the Compostela Valley government, the provincial jail, which shares space with the Davao del Norte Provincial Rehabilitation Center in a sprawling prison complex in Barangay Mankilam in Tagum, holds several communist guerrillas.
Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy urged the rebels to free Coquilla “in the spirit of Christmas.”
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