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3 Crame detainees killed in foiled escape plan; De Lima briefly held hostage
MANILA (3rd UPDATE) — Three detainees at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City were killed Sunday morning after policemen foiled their plan to escape and one of them briefly held hostage former Sen. Leila De Lima, police said.
PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin, Jr. told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo de Lima is unhurt and safe after one of her fellow detainees was neutralized by responding operatives. She was taken to the PNP Health Service for medical check-up.
In a statement, the PNP said Azurin ordered for an investigation on the attempted escape of Arnel Cabintoy, Feliciano Sulayao Jr. aka "Abu Muslim," and Idang Susukan, all of the Abu Sayyaf Group, from the PNP Custodial Center.
Police records showed all 3 suspects were facing multiple charges of murder, kidnapping, arson, and illegal firearms possession in parts of Mindanao, particularly Sulu and Zamboanga del Norte.
Susukan had been in detention since 2020 after he was turned over to authorities by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari.
Aside from Sulayao briefly holding de Lima hostage, the suspects also stabbed P/Cpl. Roger Agustin, who has since been brought to the hospital.
"Nag-warning yung isang pulis natin... Nung hindi masawata yung tatlo, binaril niya yung dalawa. Yung isa ay tumakbo dun sa selda ni Sen. de Lima at hinostage si Sen. de Lima," Azurin said in the TeleRadyo interview.
"And then, nagresponde nang mabilis yung ating kapulisan. They were able to secure, and safe naman po na naano si Sen. de Lima. So namatay yung tatlong preso na nagtangkang tumakas," he added.
Azurin said the detainees used an improvised knife in attacking Agustin.
The PNP statement said it was members of the Special Action Forces that responded to the incident and negotiated with Sulayao.
Officials identified Patrolman Lorenz Matias as the one who gunned down Cabintoy and Susukan, while Col. Mark Pespes was the one who neutralized Sulayao.
"Tension inside the detention facility has been defused and the situation has returned to normal while investigation is ongoing to review the security protocols inside the PNP Custodial," the PNP said.
De Lima's brother, Vicente, expressed his gratitude on Twitter that the former senator and Commission on Human Rights chair is safe.
"We continue to pray for her safety and immediate release. We pray too for the injured and hospitalized," Vicente, who uses the name Bicolano Penguin on Twitter, wrote.
"A human life is precious. At the same time we call on this new govt to release her from this unjust detention.#FreeLeilaNow," he added.
De Lima's lawyer Filibon Tacardon told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo they hope their petition for bail will be granted by the court handling her remaining illegal drugs cases.
"Bukas, patuloy naman yung kaniyang hearing. Sana lang, maresolba na yung aming application for bail para makalaya na muna siya kahit pansamantala habang dinidinig ang kaniyang mga kaso," he said.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a tweet he will be speaking with De Lima following the incident "to check on her condition and to ask if she wishes to be transferred to another detention center."
But after talking to De Lima, Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said the former senator did not want to be transferred as she already "felt safe" at the PNP Custodial Center.
"Kung ano ang feel niya na safe within the perimeter na lugar, kasi mayroon pang mga dating kulungan nila Sen. Bong Revilla at Sen. Jinggoy [Estrada]. It’s her choice. Pero sinabi niya sa akin na she feels safe sa lugar niya," Abalos told reporters.
In a separate statement, Malacañang said Marcos has directed Camp Crame "to enforce all measures necessary to ensure that no act of violence in said facility and all other PNP detention centers shall happen again."
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it was "gravely concerned" on the incident.
"It puts into serious question the safety of Senator De Lima, as well as other detainees in the said detention facility," it said.
The CHR added that it has sent a quick response operation to investigate on the matter, "in the interest of finding out the truth and possible accountabilities."
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said an investigation into the incident is important to see "if she was the target of some nefarious plan."
"It has been 5 years of unjust detention for the former Senator. It is high time that she be released. Free Leila de Lima. That is the least government can do," he added.
De Lima, 63, a staunch critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested on drug charges on February 24, 2017, after a long drawn-out public feud where the former president accused her of immorality and collecting money from drug sources and vowed to destroy her.
The former senator, who lost a senatorial reelection bid in May, has always maintained her innocence, rejecting the cases against her as fabricated and a product of political persecution.
De Lima, as former head of the Commission on Human Rights, initiated an inquiry into the Davao Death Squad and, as former senator and head of the Senate Justice committee, launched a probe on the bloody drug war — in both instances butting heads with Duterte.
Both topics are also the subject of an International Criminal Court probe.
— with report from Raffy Cabristante and Reiniel Pawid, ABS-CBN News