MANILA, Philippines – As Marawi City residents prepare to go home, authorities scramble to look for prisoners who escaped from jail after the war erupted.
According to the latest tally of the the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), 72 inmates from Marawi City jails are still on the loose.
Marawi has two jails located inside the same compound: the Marawi City Jail and the Malabang District Jail.
The former has 68 escapees in total, of which 26 have been recovered while 42 remain at large. The latter has recorded a total of 39 escapees, with 9 already recovered and 30 still being chased by authorities. (WATCH: Marawi in 360: Inside the War Zone)
"We are urging them to surrender to the Philippine National Police or the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology for continuing detention," BJMP spokesperson Senior Jail Inspector Xavier Solda said in a press conference on Tuesday, October 24.
The Marawi City Jail and the Malabang District Jail were among the first structures taken by the Maute Group. The terrorists reportedly got weapons for the battle from pillaging the detention facilities.
The jailbreaks marked the first day of what was to be the longest-running crisis of the young Duterte administration. (READ: The war in Marawi: 153 days and more)
Where are the prisoners?
The jail escapees, the BJMP surmised, met only two possible fates: escaping the siege and living with their families outside Marawi, or dying with Maute Group combatants in the war.
"What I can confirm is during the process, some of the inmates were convinced, kinukumbinse silang sumama sa (they were invited to join the) Maute Group," Solda told reporters.
They, however, have no record of the inmates who joined the Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired group. (READ: The life of a Maute hostage in Marawi)
"According to our personnel, dalawa lang pinagpipilian: sasama ba sila sa Maute o outright papatayin sila...Ang desisyon ay nasa tao," Solda said. (According to our personnel, the prisoners were made to choose between two options: joining the Maute Group, or getting killed on the spot... The decision was theirs.)
The terrorists are known for executing hostages and using them as human shields in the war. According to Solda, the BJMP will coordinate with the police and the army to check whether inmates were indeed part of the conflict's casualties.
The search comes as Marawi, once a cultural powerhouse in the region, became a ruined city hollowed of its people.