The entire police force of Jolo, capital town of Sulu province, has been sacked following a jailbreak involving 29 inmates.
Police chiefs in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said they decided to axe the force for “laxity”.
Senior Inspector Jemar delos Santos, spokesman of the ARMM police, said most of those who escaped on Saturday (February 24) were facing drug charges.
At least 12 of the inmates were still at large, following the 10am jailbreak at the Jolo police detention facility, Delos Santos said.
A total of 17 were captured on Sunday. A police and military team was now hunting the other escapees, he added.
Police and military in the entire province have been put on high alert and all possible exits are being watched.
The 12 inmates who are still on the run have been identified as Herbert Bael, Radzmir Salahudin, Nur Hassan Taasan, Alim Misa, Abdulwahid Lipae, Junal Sali, Alvin Hamdi, Al-amil Kipili, Algamer Bantala, Mutmamir Pangambayan, Khan Balang and Dante Abdula.
Delos Santos said it was suspected that the 12 would attempt to flee to Basilan Island.
He added that all policemen and officers assigned to the Jolo police station would be “placed under the custody of the provincial mobile force company pending investigation.”
Initial investigation showed members of the Jolo police force failed to notice the inmates picking the lock of their cell. The lone guard on duty was not present at the time of the jailbreak.
Chief Superintendent Graciano Mejares, ARMM police chief, said escapees could still be in Sulu, and hiding in remote villages.
He added that police in islets around Sulu and Basilan had been alerted and ordered to be on the watch for the escaped inmates.
The jailbreak was not the first to hit the Jolo police detention facility in Barangay Walled City in the capital town.
In July last year, three detainees were killed, while another was wounded in a jailbreak. At least 10 of the detainees who escaped in July have not been recaptured. Some of them are suspected members of the terror group Abu Sayyaf.