MANILA, Philippines – Former senator Leila de Lima survived a hostage-taking at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center inside Camp Crame in Quezon City, the PNP announced on Sunday morning, October 9.
The hostage-taking was perpetrated by Feliciano Sulayao Jr., another detainee who was accused of being a subleader of the local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
Before taking De Lima hostage, Sulayao attempted to escape from the detention center with Idang Susukan and Arnel Cabintoy. Susukan was also detained for being an alleged subleader of the Abu Sayyaf, while Cabintoy was an alleged member of Dawlah Islamiyah, another terrorist group.
According to the PNP, a policeman was stabbed during the three detainees’ attempted escape. Another cop on duty was able to fire at the three, hitting Cabintoy and Susukan. Sulayao then headed toward De Lima’s cell and took her hostage.
The police’s Special Action Force came to the scene to negotiate with Sulayao, but to no avail.
“Since the situation is escalating, the tactical team engaged Sulayao and he was neutralized,” the PNP said in its statement.
The police reported that De Lima was safe and that the stabbed cop was rushed to a hospital.
The three detainees who tried to escape, added the police, were all “neutralized.” The police later clarified this to say the detainees were killed.
In a video obtained by Rappler, one policeman was seen asking for assistance to aid their injured colleague. The same policeman seeking help said: “Natumba ko ‘yung dalawa. Si Sulayao na lang (I’ve taken down two of them. It’s just Sulayao now).” He then took another policeman to their injured comrade.
In a statement on Sunday afternoon, De Lima said she thought she would not survive the incident.
“After being told by the hostage-taker that since his two other companions were already dead, he’s certain he would also be killed and he might just as well also kill me, I consider what happened to me as a near-death experience,” the former senator said.
De Lima also said she did not imagine being subjected to a hostage-taking incident on top of her “unjust detention.” The former senator, a critic of former president Rodrigo Duterte, has been detained since 2017 and maintains she is innocent of the drug charges against her.
The PNP said it has initiated a “review” of the security protocols inside the detention center.
The PNP Custodial Center is a special facility where high-profile suspects are detained as their cases are heard in court.
– with reports from Jairo Bolledo/Rappler.com