Murder suspect strolls out of Philippine jail
A former policeman on trial for murder in the Philippines escaped from jail on Thursday, then embarrassed authorities further by speaking to media outlets over the phone.
Ex-police superintendent Cezar Mancao, charged with murder over the 2000 killings of a well-known publicist and his driver, casually walked out of a detention centre in Manila with the help of prison wardens, authorities said.
“His escape is a big slap to the bureau’s face,” National Bureau of Investigation director Nonnatus Rojas told reporters after confirming the escape.
The NBI is the investigative arm of the justice department, in whose supposedly heavily secured facility Mancao was held.
Rojas said two guards who apparently let Mancao escape had been detained.
Footage from a security camera showed Mancao calmly leaving his cell before dawn carrying a bag containing his personal belongings, according to Rojas.
Mancao, who has been in jail since 2009, then spoke with national television and radio stations to explain that he fled because he feared he would be killed in detention.
“I reached the point where I could not take it any more,” he repeatedly said in the interviews.
The escape is the latest embarrassment for Philippine law enforcers, who have long been dogged by accusations of incompetence and corruption.
In 2003 Islamic militant Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi walked out of a high-security prison inside the national police headquarters in Manila as then-Australian Prime Minister John Howard was on a state visit.
Mancao and another policeman, Michael Ray Aquino, were charged with murder in 2001 over the murder of publicist Salvador Dacer and his driver.
The two accused were proteges of then-national police chief Panfilo Lacson, who headed a special anti-crime task force which rights group said carried out summary executions of criminals.
Mancao had told prosecutors that Lacson, now a senator, ordered the killing because Dacer was seen as a critic of their political patron, then-president Joseph Estrada.
Lacson fled the country for about one year to avoid prosecution and only returned after he was cleared by a court. However, authorities pursued the charges against Mancao and Aquino, who remains in jail.