The Philippines’ first and only industry magazine that deals with safety and security matters pervading the environment today.

I’ll be home for Christmas: Jailbreaks and an Escape in December

There must be something about the Christmas spirit that is inspiring inmates to break out of jail.

Recent reports revealed that various groups and individuals have tunneled, threatened and bribed their way out of their respective prisons.

On Sunday (December 11), Agence France Presse reported that twelve alleged Al-Qaeda militants along with two other inmates dug their way to freedom out of a prison in Aden, a southern city in Yemen. Tunnels were reportedly dug at the western end of Aden’s central prison.

In the southern province of Basilan, Filipino-American teenager Kevin Lunsmann walked away last Friday (December 9) from his Abu Sayyaf captors. Five months ago, Lunsmann, along with his mother and cousin, were abducted in Zamboanga City. He was discovered by a local official and turned over to the mayor of Lamitan City.

Last Saturday (December 10), three Chinese inmates charged with drug trafficking, identified as Cheung Wai Leung, Long Zong and Chan Tong Lou, escaped from the Parañaque City Jail. A closed-circuit television feed showed they were even escorted out by their own jail officer.

The next day (December 11), six prisoners escaped from the Cagayan Provincial Jail by threatening the jail guards with guns. It is still unknown how the inmates came into possession of their weapons. Regardless, the jail guards definitely failed in their job.

Of these reports, the only positive one is the escape of Lunsmann. His mom was previously released and his cousin earlier escaped from the clutches of the kidnappers. Lunsmann reportedly escaped while his Abu Sayyaf captors were trying to evade government forces.

The teenager was quoted as saying that his captors were all asleep when he walked away. The jailbreaks cast a sorry reflection on the quality of prison security and the competence of jail officers and integrity of the penal system.

Jail wardens seem to forget that they are in charge of those who are determined to regain their freedom at all cost.

Jail Officer 1 Richard Sillatoc, who allegedlly facilitated the escape of the three Chinese inmates, is reportedly deep in gambling debt. Charged with drug trafficking, the three Chinese inmates may very well afford a promise of a large sum to Sillatoc.

Meanwhile, the six prisoners from the Cagayan Provincial Jail managed to force their own guards to open their cells with the use of guns. Two tricycles that had been parked outside the prison compound may have serve as the getaway vehicles. Prison officials should also investigate the possibility that the inmates may have been helped from the inside as well.

This brings us to mention another prisoner who is detained at the Veterans’ Memorial Medical Center (VMMC). By appearances, it seems that no stone has been left unturned in securing former president and Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Arroyo, who is charged with electoral sabotage, is in the custody of a contingent from the Philippine National Police, the Police Protection and Security Group.

Various security measures are being implemented, such as CCTV cameras within and outside the presidential suite of the hospital. Aside from the strict physical check on all visitors, authorities have also restricted Mrs. Arroyo from using her laptop and mobile phone.

A pity that our other correctional facilities do not enjoy the same careful attention the authorities have bestowed upon a “chronically ill” and “half-paralyzed” woman.

These circumstances of the detained and the imprisoned underline the contrasting situation of those who are free.

Most often than not, the free fail to appreciate the freedom that they enjoy. The free can move around and be with their families especially during the holidays.

Unlike those behind bars, the free can savor the company of their loved ones during Christmastime.

To my daughters Nathalie and Nicole, I’ll be home soon.