MANILA - At least 10 inmates at a jail in Paranaque city, just south of the capital Manila, were killed on Thursday evening in what investigators said could have been a botched attempt to escape.
Initial reports said eight were killed following a grenade explosion at around 8.30pm inside the office of the warden, Superintendent Gerals Bantag.
Two more – both Chinese nationals – died at a hospital, according to Paranaque Mayor Erwin Olivarez. Supt Bantag suffered shrapnel wounds.
The inmates had wanted to discuss with the warden plans to to move them out of their cells when the situation went south.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the inmates might have used the meeting with the warden as a cover in a ploy to escape.
Senior Superintendent Jose Carumba, Paranaque police chief, told the Inquirer the 10 inmates killed were all inside Supt Bantag’s office when they began drawing guns, knives and grenades.
He said the inmates and the warden exchanged gunfire, and then someone lobbed a grenade.
It was not immediately clear how the inmates managed to smuggle as much weapons, or whether the warden was alone in his office.
The inmates might have planned to take Supt Bantag hostage, said Senior Supt Carumba.
The incident was relayed to President Rodrigo Duterte as he was wrapping up a news conference in his home city of Davao. He read some of the names of those killed, but declined to comment.
Just hours earlier, an alleged drug kingpin was killed by police inside a prison in Leyte province, 900km south of Manila.
Chief Superintendent Elmer Beltejar, regional police director, said Edgar Allen Alvarez was killed by a team trying to search his prison bunk house.
Alvarez reportedly tried to lob a grenade at the raiding party, but it did not explode. A prison guard shot him several times.
Alvarez was among the inmates transferred from the National Penitentiary in the capital after he was discovered to have enjoyed special privileges there, including an air-conditioned cell, a jacuzzi, and access to cell phones and Internet-connected laptops.
He was said to be running a drug operation from within the penitentiary.
In recent days, photos of an overcrowded jail in Quezon City, metropolitan Manila’s most populous, drew concerns that President Duterte’s war on crime was stretching the nation’s penal system near its breaking point.
The jail, meant for only 800 inmates, now houses nearly 4,000. Inmates sleep side-by-side, packed like sardines, on cement floors and on staircases.
Since Mr Duterte, 71, a former city mayor who built a reputation as a fierce anti-crime crusader, took office on June 30, over 540 people tagged as drug suspects have been killed either by police or unnamed vigilantes.
Some 600,000 people on a watchlist of suspected drug users have surrendered.