North Cotabato gov leads prayer for peace as manhunt vs jail escapees continues

North Cotabato Acting Governor Shirlyn Macasarte-Villanueva on Monday rallied her people to pray for peace and to help the province survive challenges that included the country's biggest jail attack and escape, Christmas Eve bombing and last year's violent farmers' mass protests.

"Last night, I joined the call of our young people of Midsayap to light candles and pray for peace in our province," Macasarte-Villanueva said a few days after the bloody attack by armed on the North Cotabato District Jail in Barangay Amas, Kidapawan City.

Along with North Cotabato Board Member Rolly Sacdalan, Macasarte-Villanueva took time out and prayed with the young in Midsayap, a town rocked by bombing on Christmas Eve that left 17 persons injured.

"It's a good initiative that was also observed in other towns. Indeed, when we pray together, He hears and honors them," she said.

Police Chief Insp. Joyce Birrey, speaking for North Cotabato Police Office, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that police offices across the province have been distributing mug shots and vital information of each escapee who remains at large in an effort to fast track recovery of inmates who escaped the facility in Barangay Amas, Kidapawan City on Wednesday.

Photos of the escapees, many of whom were facing illegal drug charges, have been displayed in bus and jeepney terminals, public markets, even on public transport vehicles.

Birrey said the efforts were also coordinated with nearby police offices in the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Sur, Bukidnon and nearby areas.

Of the 158 inmates who fled, 58 had been accounted for with 10 of them killed during manhunt operation, 46 recaptured and two injured now confined in the hospital.

Birrey said no "shoot to kill" order was issued by police and military authorities to remaining 100 escapees.

Gunmen, armed with assault rifles and cal. 50 Barret rifles, stormed the provincial jail compound in Barangay Amas to rescue four of its companions detained on charges of bombings and illegal drugs.

One jail officer was killed while 158 inmates were freed. But the four subjects of "rescue operation" by lawless elements were not among the escapees, Jail Supt. Peter John Bongngat Jr. told reporters.

He said they remained in jail.

Macasarte-Villanueva said the NCDJ is under the operation of the BJMP which is also under the supervision of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

She said the operation and supervision of the jail facility was transferred to DILG since 2010.

"However, the provincial government still supports them through needed logistics and has, in fact, provided 15 jail guards," she said.

"We will allow the pursuit operation to continue and we will not do anything to hamper them because our priority now is to have the inmates recaptured," Macasarte-Villanueva stressed, adding that a deeper investigation is ongoing.

"I assure the public that we will not cover up any lapses on the part of the authorities. Heads must roll," she said.

Kidapawan City and North Cotabato made headlines last year with the bloody and violent dispersal of farmers protests in Kidapawan City that left three persons dead and the Christmas Eve bombing in front of a Catholic Church that injured 17.

The jail attack on January 4 also placed the city in the front pages of dailies but Macasarte-Villanueva said these incidents should not prevent the provincial officials from improving the lives of its people as the security sector is taking charge, and is in control of the situation.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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