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Almost 100 inmates from Philippine jailbreak still loose; govt sets up P2-M reward

North Cotabato Acting Gov. Shirlyn Macasarte, seen here with board members Rolly Sacdalan (R) and Kelly Antao. PHOTO BY DENNIS ARCON, INTERAKSYON.COM
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - Nearly 100 inmates who escaped a week ago during the Philippines' biggest jailbreak remain on the run with some being protected by Muslim rebels or bandits, authorities said Wednesday. This, as the North Cotabato governor's office and the Interior department set up a P2-million reward for information leading to the capture of the man who staged the attack on the district jail, and the drug lord he sprang from prison.

One guard was killed as dozens of gunmen raided a dilapidated jail in the strife-torn south of the country, with murderers and rapists among the 158 prisoners who took advantage of the chaos to escape.

Authorities said they had carried out an extensive manhunt in vast farmlands and isolated villages surrounding Kidapawan city where the jailbreak took place, which netted 51 of the escapees and killed 10 others.

However 97 remained on the run, provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Emmanuel Peralta told AFP on Wednesday.

He said some inmates may have taken refuge in camps of various Muslim armed groups that are based in the region, with the rebels refusing to shelter any of the Christian escapees.

"That is what some of those who were recaptured are saying. They (the escaped Christians) are told to separate from the Muslim inmates because they are not allowed inside the camps of those they are hiding with," Peralta said.

The head of provincial jails, Superintendent Simeon Dolojo, gave a similar assessment.

"According to some reports coming from the Philippine police and military, they are coddled by armed groups, definitely, Muslim armed groups," Dolojo told AFP.

He did not specify who was believed to be sheltering the escapees, saying many different rebel groups or gangs were based in the area.

The southern region of Mindanao is the ancestral homeland of the largely Catholic Philippines' Muslim minority.

Muslim rebels have waged a separatist insurgency since the 1970s, with the conflict claiming more than 120,000 lives.

While the major rebel organizations have for years observed a ceasefire with the government as part of peace efforts, there are breakaway factions opposed to compromise and other gangs that have declared allegiance to the Islamic State group.

The area where the jailbreak took place, about 900 kilometers (560 miles) south of Manila, has a mixed Christian and Muslim population.

Von al-Haq, military spokesman of the largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), denied to AFP on Thursday it was involved in the jailbreak or that it was sheltering any of the inmates.

Militants have attacked the Kidapawan jail repeatedly.

In 2007, gunmen freed 49 inmates there. Among those who escaped was Khair Mundos, one of the main leaders of the Abu Sayyaf, which is blamed for the Philippines' worst terrorist attacks. He was recaptured in 2014.

2-M reward set up by govt

Meanwhile, a P2-million reward was set up by the Provincial Government of North Cotabato and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to anyone who can point to the whereabouts of Esmael Nasser, more popularly known as Kumander Derby, and the escapee drug lord Melvin Casangyao.

Acting Governor Shirlyn Macasarte said P1 million of the reward will come from the Provincial Government and the other million from DILG.

Macasarte told Brigada Cotabato a reward of P20,000 for information on each escapee of the Amas District Jail has also been set up - half from the provincial governor's office and the other half from DILG.

The rewards were set up to hasten the recapture of the inmates and the arrest of Kumander Derby and Casangyao. The former led the jail attack to spring the inmates while Casangyao masterminded and funded it.

Information received by Macasarte said Kumander Derby was paid P1 million to free the drug lord Casangyao.

Macasarte clarified there is no Shoot to Kill Order out on the escapees and Kumander Derby.

The manhunt continues, while Jail Warden Peter Jhon Bonggat has been relieved. He was relieved by JCIns Jesus Singson. With a report by Dennis Arcon,