Former senator Leila de Lima was taken hostage briefly on Sunday morning by a person under police custody (PUPC) who is said to be a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Police General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said.
Azurin said the incident occurred at around 6:30 a.m. at the PNP Custodial Center inside Camp Crame in Quezon City.
A police officer identified as duty personnel Police Corporal Roger Agustin was delivering food for PUPCs at the maximum security compound at the time of the incident. It was also the time when PUPCs are allowed to go outdoors for sunlight, Azurin said.
Agustin was stabbed with an improvised knife by three PUPCs who were trying to escape, he said.
"Nag-warning ang isang pulis pero tinuloy-tuloy pa rin ng mga suspek," Azurin said in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB.
(Another police officer gave a warning shot but the suspects continued stabbing the victim.)
The three PUPCs were later identified as Arnel Cabintoy, Idang Susukan, and Feliciano Sulayao Jr., all alleged members of Abu Sayyaf, according to a report by Luisito Santos citing Azurin.
DEVELOPING STORY: 3 preso na napatay ng mga pulis matapos magtangkang tumakas at nang-hostage kay dating Sen. @AttyLeiladeLima, pawang mga miyembro ng Abu Sayyaf Group — PNP Chief PGen. Rodolfo Azurin, Jr. | via @luisitosantos03 pic.twitter.com/P00tuK5MCG— DZBB Super Radyo (@dzbb) October 9, 2022
“Ginawa pa pong hostage si Senator Leila de Lima. Ang ano naman do’n, kahit papaano, na-contain naman ng ating kapulisan. Of course, naitakbo ‘yung pulis natin sa ospital. Nasa critical condition,” he said.
(They took [former] Senator Leila de Lima as hostage. Our police forces were able to contain the incident. Of course, the injured police officer was brought to the hospital. He is now in critical condition.)
The PNP chief added that the suspects were later neutralized.
“Sa kasamaang palad, nasawi po sila,” he said.
(Unfortunately, they died.)
The 3 fatalities at Camp Crame stabbing incident this morning were identified as Arnel Cabintoy, Idang Susukan and Feliciano Sulayao. All are persons under police custody or PUCPs @gmanews @gmanewsbreaking— Mariz Umali (@marizumali) October 9, 2022
It was Sulayao who ran towards De Lima's custodial cell and took her hostage, according to a tweet of GMA News reporter Mariz Umali, citing PNP.
Sen @AttyLeiladeLima who is also detained at the PNP Custodial Facility was taken hostage by PUPC Feliciano Sulayao in the stabbing incident that occurred this morning at Camp Crame. All 3 suspects were neutralized. @gmanews @gmanewsbreaking— Mariz Umali (@marizumali) October 9, 2022
The PNP said Special Action Force members negotiated with Sulayao but to no avail.
Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos said the PUPCs demanded a helicopter, a Hummer, and other items in their bid to escape prison.
He also said De Lima was tied and blindfolded by the hostage takers.
Azurin said de Lima is “safe” and was checked at a hospital.
“Hindi masyadong nasaktan si Senator de Lima. Pinapa-check up natin siya kung ano kalagayan niya. Definitely, she is safe," he said.
([Former] Senator de Lima was not injured much. We brought her for checkup to determine her condition. Definitely, she is safe.)
Azurin, however, denied that de Lima was the target of the PUPCs.
“Hindi naman po siguro kasi parang nagkataon lang siguro na nandoon si Senator de Lima. Nakita nila na ito ang magandang cover. Kung puntirya nila si Senator de Lima, siguro hindi na nila hinintay ‘yung pulis,” he said.
(Maybe not because it seems like it was just a coincidence that Senator de Lima was there. They saw that this was a good cover. If they were aiming at Senator de Lima, maybe they wouldn't have waited for the police.)
“Ang intensyon na nakikita ko talaga diyan, they really want to escape," Azurin said.
(The intention that I see is they really want to escape.)
Azurin also answered in the affirmative when asked if the incident was planned.
“Definitely po ganun ang nangyayari kasi ‘yung ginamit na parang knife ay improvised. Kaya nga sabi ko sa ating camp commander, i-check nang mabuti ‘yung mga ano... They should not give any room or chance sa mga prisoner ng mga nandoon na makagawa ng improvised tools,” he said.
(That's definitely what happened because the knife that was used was improvised. That's why I said to our camp commander, check those things carefully... They should not give any room or chance to the prisoners who are there to make improvised tools.)
Meanwhile, also injured in the incident was PUPC Jonathan Carpio.
The three PUPCs have pending criminal cases for murder, frustrated murder, kidnapping and illegal detention, PNP Public Information Office chief Police Brigadier General Roderick Augustus Alba told reporters.
The three PUPC who attempted to escape the PNP Custodial Center this morning at Camp Crame and who were eventually neutralized have pending criminal cases for Murder, Frustrated Murder, Kidnapping and Illegal detention. @gmanewsbreaking @gmanews— Mariz Umali (@marizumali) October 9, 2022
Azurin has ordered an in-depth investigation into the incident. The SOCO team is also now at the scene of the incident.
In a tweet, dzBB reporter Luisito Santos said that a part of Camp Crame was placed on lockdown after the incident.
JUST IN: Nakalockdown ngayon ang bahagi ng Camp Crame matapos ang nangyaring hostage taking sa PNP Custodial Facility kung saan nakakulong si dating Sen. Leila De Lima @dzbb pic.twitter.com/rPoFmDsajH— Luisito Santos (@luisitosantos03) October 9, 2022
Visitations have also been suspended.
“We will review po ‘yung mga existing security po doon sa area to include po ‘yung ano, ‘yun nga po, any material that would be improvised to hurt anyone,” Azurin said in a report on GMA’s “24 Oras Weekend” on Sunday.
“Definitely we will not allow to be within reach ng ating mga preso na nandoon so it will not endanger any prisoners na nandodoon sa Custodial [Center],” he added.
(We will review the existing security [protocols] in the area to include any material that would be improvised to hurt anyone. Definitely we will not allow to be within reach of the inmates so it will not endanger any prisoners inside the Custodial [Center].)
For her part, de Lima said she is safe, aside from the distress and some lingering pain on her chest where the hostage taker pressed his knife.
Her spokesperson, lawyer Filibon Tacardon, said the team will still have to discuss the next steps to be taken moving forward.
“‘Pag-uusapan pa namin ng defense team kung ano ang magiging legal step na gagawin naman diyan. Inuna muna naman kalagayan ni (former) Senator de Lima at nagpapasalamat naman kami that she is safe and unhurt,” he said in the same report.
[We will discuss the legal steps to be taken with the defense team. We prioritized the safety of (former) Senator de Lima and we are thankful that she is safe and unhurt.]
De lima is set to attend the resumption of the hearing on one of the remaining illegal drug charges filed against her on Monday, October 10, 2022.
Opposition senator Koko Pimentel on Sunday said the PNP should have a detailed report on the incident soon.
"We worry for the safety of Sen Leila de Lima. PNP should come up with a detailed report on what happened and why this happened considering that Sen de Lima is held in a separate area away from other inmates. We are glad with the initial report that she is okay. The wheels of Justice in this country must move quicker," he said in a message sent to reporters.
De Lima, a former Justice secretary and a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, has been detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame since February 2017 due to drug charges. De Lima however has denied being involved in illegal drugs.
One of the three drug charges against her was junked by the Muntinlupa court in February last year.
In May and April, respectively, former Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos and self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa recanted their drug allegations against de Lima. — with Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas/KG/BM, GMA News