MANILA, Philippines – They were promised P150,000 each, but were paid only P10,000.
Before they were shortchanged, however, 14 men snatched from Cavite jail guards and freed three convicted Chinese drug traffickers.
Four of the 14, including a barangay chairman of Trece Martires City, have been arrested by Cavite police for the “rescue” of drug dealers Li Lan Yan, alias Jackson Dy, his wife Wang Li Na and Li Tian Hu.
The three Chinese remain at large, prompting an alert by the Bureau of Immigration and Philippine Coast Guard to prevent the convicts from leaving the country.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered yesterday an investigation into the escape of the three convicts last Wednesday, including the possible liability of the jail guards.
A receipt from an LBC money transfer outlet in Imus, Cavite, found in the L-300 van used by the suspects and convicts in their getaway, led police to Rodel Cambongga, who was apprehended at a police checkpoint for driving without a license shortly after the incident.
Senior Superintendent Alexander Rafael, Cavite provincial police chief, said employees at the LBC outlet identified Cambongga as the one who sent money and got the receipt several days before the drug traffickers escaped.
Rafael said Cambongga admitted acting as the lookout when the three Chinese were snatched from their jailers.
Cambongga led police to his alleged cohorts, Emiliano Quilicol, Rene Bersales, and chairman Leovino Fontanilla of Barangay Bayan Luma in Trece Martires.
Quilicol and Bersales were nabbed at dawn on Feb. 21 when they went to Cambongga’s house to collect their payment for the caper.
The jail guards identified Quilicol and Bersales as the ones who took the guards’ service firearms, according to Chief Superintendent Benito Estipona, Calabarzon police commander.
Cambongga allegedly tagged Fontanilla as their recruiter for the caper.
Upon questioning, however, the barangay captain appeared to be unaware of the criminal activities of the group with links to Ozamis City.
A raid on Fontanilla’s house yielded a caliber .45 pistol with three magazines, three hand grenades, and a 9mm automatic that police said belonged to one of the jail guards.
Police said Cambongga admitted that on Feb. 16, he and another cohort from Ozamis identified as Ariel Bondaon, alias Bokbok, visited Li Lan Yan or Jackson Dy at the Cavite provincial jail. There, the gang was promised P150,000 each if the three Chinese could be freed.
De Lima is meeting on Tuesday with officials of the National Bureau of Investigation and Chief Superintendent Federico Laciste, deputy chief of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations in Southern Luzon, to kick off the probe on the escape.
Laciste said that as early as August 2011, he had sent a letter to the Department of Justice, warning of a plot to spring the notorious drug traffickers from the Cavite provincial jail. The three faced life terms for drug offenses.
“We want to determine what happened and, if warranted, file charges against those found to be liable,” De Lima said.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government, which has supervision over the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Philippine National Police, has launched its own investigation.
In 2003, lawmen had seized shabu valued at P500 million from Li Lan Yan. At the time of his arrest, he owned a shabu laboratory in Barangay Kapipisa in Tanza, Cavite, and shabu warehouses in Quezon City, Pasay and Parañaque.
He and his companions were convicted of drug charges by the Parañaque Regional Trial Court on April 29, 2009.
They were on their way to attend a court hearing on a separate drug case in Trece Martires when 14 armed men blocked their path and freed them from their four jail guards. With Edu Punay, Evelyn Macairan