WHO could have fi­nanced the jail­break plan in Ki­da­pawan City?

Prisoner known as ‘Hapon’ promised P2M, guns to fel­low in­mate to plan es­cape

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - By Edwin Fernandez and Wil­liamor Mag­banua @in­q­min­danao

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-yearold 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.

—REUTERS

Se­cu­rity has been tight­ened at the North Cota­bato District Jail in Ki­da­pawan City fol­low­ing the es­cape of 158 pris­on­ers last week.

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