13 escape from ‘COVID’ detention facility in Caloocan

Published October 22, 2020, 11:16 AM

by Joseph Pedrajas

Thirteen inmates, detained at a special facility to ensure they are free from COVID-19, escaped early Thursday morning by boring a hole inside their cell at the Caloocan City Custodial Facility Extension Unit.


The Caloocan City Police Station identified the escapees as: Martin Mama, 46; Gerrymar Petilla, 21; Hudson Jeng, 42; Aldwin Jhoe Espila, 25; Reymark Delos Reyes, 27; Norbert Alvarez, 35; Mark Oliver Gamutia, 21; Jovel Toledo Jr., 27; Arnel Buccat, 19; Raymond Balasa, 35; Reynaldo Bantiling, 35; Aries Dunacao, 28; and Justine Tejeros, 22.

The escapees are facing various charges, including possession of illegal drugs, alarm and scandal, carnapping, theft, possession of illegal firearms, and robbery extortion.

Caloocan Police chief Col. Dario Menor said that the incident happened at around 1:50 a.m. at the city’s Custodial Facility Extension Unit located near the Caloocan City Hall.

In an interview with reporters, Menor said the detainees escaped by boring a hole on a wall at the ground floor, using concrete nails and stones.

“In the course of the investigation, mayroong mga concrete nails, kasi dating bodega ‘yun. Yung pinaunti-unti nila na i-break, yung layers ng concrete (we found that there were several concrete nails in the area, because the facility used to be a storage room. They used them and little by little, they were able to break the layers of the wall),” Menor said.

Menor added that the escape appeared to have been planned as it would take the detainees some time to make a hole.

“Di talaga nila magagawa yun na biglaan, we believe na plinano yun, mga days before talaga, inumpisahan na nila. In order for them to break the concrete of the layers, matagal po (We believed they planned their escape as they could not drill a hole in just a day. They started drilling several days before they escaped because in order for them to break the concrete, it would take time),” he said.

Menor believed that the jail guards did not notice nor hear the escapees boring a hole due to noise being intentionally made by the detainees.

“Ang ginagawa kasi nila, habang nagtitiktik sila, nagiingay. ‘Yun ang instruction ng kanilang mayor at vice mayores. Kaya hindi napapansin (They were making a noise while they were boring the hole. That’s the instruction of their heads inside the cell. That’s why the jail guards did not notice anything),” he said.

Prior to the incident, there were a total 31 individuals detained in the special facility.

Some of them, the police chief said, admitted having knowledge about the escapees’ plan but they preferred to stay.

Facility not retrofitted for detainees

According to Menor, the facility where the escapees were detained is only a temporary custodial facility for recently arrested individuals.

It was built “sometime in March,” upon the police’s request to the local government, to avoid congestion of inmates in existing custodial facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The building is not really fitted for these PUPCs (persons under police custody), it really needs retrofitting,” Menor admitted, although he noted that before they started detaining inmates there, they first conducted “security service inspection” in the area “and it passed.”

Menor said that before transferring to a Bureau of Jail and Penology Management (BJMP) facility, arrested individuals are being isolated there for 21 days to ensure that they are negative of COVID-19.

He said the 13 escapees were actually set to be transferred to a BJMP facility.

Immediately after police were informed of the escape, Menor said, his men conducted a manhunt operation that led to the arrest of one of them.

“We were able to recapture Arries Dunacao. The instruction to the operatives was to check the address lat given by the detainee. They were able to talk with the mother of Arries and she pointed to his whereabout,” he said.

Menor said that two police officers manning the facility will face criminal charges, particularly evasion through negligence, in light of the incident.

“They will be facing criminal charges. After ma-ifile namin yung criminal charge na ‘yun, susunod namin yung administrative case nila (After we file criminal charges, we will also file administrative charges),” he added.