Parañaque jail blast: Lax guards, inmates with Uzi
Negligence on the part of security personnel immediately surfaced in the investigation of Thursday night’s explosion that left 10 inmates dead at Parañaque City jail.
As the probe got underway, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) brushed aside speculations that the incident—which also wounded the warden—was staged to summarily execute the inmates in line with President Duterte’s bloody war on illegal drugs. It was an angle that gained traction mainly because the fatalities, who included two Chinese nationals, were mostly facing drug-related charges.
A police official said that before the 8 p.m. blast, the inmates who had sought a dialogue with the warden, Supt. Gerald Bantag, were not even frisked when allowed to leave their cells to go to the warden’s office. One of the guards has admitted this lapse in an affidavit.
The explosion’s aftermath also indicated that the inmates had been keeping not just the usual jail contraband but combat weapons. Initial findings showed that a grenade went off—a pin was later recovered—and the inmates had an Uzi submachine gun.
In an interview on Friday, Senior Supt. Jose Carumba, the Parañaque police chief, said they were investigating whether the 10 inmates sought a meeting with Bantag as a prelude to a hostage-taking or a jailbreak.
‘Inmates kept firing at warden’
Carumba said the inmates wished to see Bantag apparently after they heard about his plan to move them to other cells and conduct a thorough search for contraband in the three-story facility, then holding 963 male detainees. Bantag himself mentioned this plan to him earlier this week, he said.
The warden was brushing his teeth at the adjacent bathroom when he noticed a “commotion” among the inmates who were waiting in the receiving area. “He said he heard a gunshot which prompted him to grab his 9mm pistol. He said the inmates kept firing at him, so he kept firing back as he tried to make his way out of his office. It was then that the grenade exploded,” the police official said.
Carumba said that on Friday afternoon, Senior Jail Officer 1 Ricardo Zulueta executed an affidavit admitting he did not frisk the inmates before they were allowed to go to Bantag’s office, which made it easier for them to hide their weapons.
The police chief said he had recommended that the BJMP look into the jail guards’ administrative liability particularly regarding the smuggled weapons.
Bantag sustained wounds in the left leg and face, believed to be caused by shrapnel. He remained at Ospital ng Parañaque at press time.
Two of the dead inmates, Jacky Huang and Yonghan Cai, were Chinese nationals facing drug charges. Six others had the same cases: Waren Manampen, Ronald Domdom, Rodel Domdom, Danilo Pineda, Oliver Sarreal and Jeremy Flores.
Two other inmates, Joseph Villasor and Jonathan Ilas, were facing charges for robbery with homicide, and robbery and illegal possession of firearms, respectively, Carumba said.
The BJMP described the 10 fatalities as “high-profile” detainees, particularly the drug suspects. The bureau’s spokesperson, Senior Jail Insp. Xavier Solda, confirmed police findings that they had sought a dialogue with the warden in view of their impending transfer.
“It’s a possible angle [that] these high-profile detainees may have attempted to escape,” Solda said in a press briefing in Quezon City.
Solda brushed aside “speculations” that the detainees were summarily executed, but said the police would be in the better position to verify this in their parallel investigation and using their technical personnel. “In this isolated incident, we also need to know if there was negligence on the part of the BJMP or if it was an escape attempt.”
The investigation would also look into why Bantag was left alone with the detainees, although Solda pointed out that it is “normal” for a jail warden to meet with detainees who have any concern.
The BJMP has relieved Bantag and seven night-shift personnel of their posts and had them replaced with members of the Special Tactics and Response Team.
As of Friday afternoon, Solda said, the situation at the Parañaque jail was already stable but the bureau was still considering if the ban on visitors would remain. He also assured the families of the other detainees that the latter remained safe.
“Their cells are far from where the incident took place,” Solda said, noting that the warden’s office is on the ground floor, while the detention cells are on the third. TVJ
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