What we know so far: Leila de Lima hostage-taking

Franco Luna - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Detained former senator Leila de Lima was taken hostage in what police said Sunday was an escape attempt by three detainees from the Philippine National Police Custodial Center, where high-risk and high-profile detainees are typically held.

Here's what we know so far. 

How it started

Three Abu Sayyaf Group members identified as Arnel Cabintoy, Feliciano Sulayao Jr., and Idang Susukan, a known Abu Sayyaf leader, tried to escape on Sunday, October 9, by stabbing an officer who was distributing food at a common area where inmates can spend time in sunlight.

De Lima said she was in her detention cell praying the rosary at around 6:40 a.m. when a man with a sharp object rushed inside out of breath and brandished his weapon at her.

"Ma'am, my two companions are dead so you need to come with me because they will kill me next," the former senator quoted him in her afidavit as saying in Filipino.

After that, the man who had identified himself as Sulayao tied her hands behind her back and forced her out the gates of the compound. 

RELATED: PNP custodial unit chief sacked as probe into De Lima hostage-taking continues

The standoff

Upon seeing police on alert outside the compound, Sulayao forced the former senator back inside the compound and closed the gate behind them. Security personnel had their guns drawn but did not have a clear shot.

De Lima said Sulayao tied her feet with towels for the next half hour as he negotiated his escape with police. 

It was then that Police Col. Mark Pespes, the acting director of the PNP Headquarters Support Service, said Sulayao demanded a helicopter or a Hummer to serve as his getaway vehicle. He also wanted members of the media to be present. 

"I asked him, 'who are you?' He answered, 'Sulayao.' He said, 'we have many complaints about the things that were done to us here, we were treated like animals and the food had pork in it,'" De Lima wrote in Filipino. 

Muslims are forbidden from eating pork.

The detained lawyer then offered to assist Sulayao with his demands. But he instead threatened to kill her. 

"He said, I'm going to die anyway, so I might as well take you with me. There are many snipers outside," De Lima said. 

RELATED: BJMP urged to stop 'oppressive' rules that drive hunger in jails

The conclusion

Sulayao eventually complained that he was thirsty at one point in the encounter, which responding officers took as an opportunity to defuse tensions. 

Pespes said at a press conference Monday that officers rolled a few bottles of water to him on the floor. They had to take a few sips for themselves when the hostage-taker claimed they had spiked the water with a tranquilizer. 

He still refused to drink and instead demanded water from the dispenser. 

"[De Lima] was yelling, 'he's hurting me'. That was when he threatened her, 'by 7:30, I'm going to kill you too.' So it was a quick decision when he wanted water from the dispenser," Pespes told reporters. 

Pespes insisted on handing the water from the dispenser to Suluyao, and when Suluyao reached out to grab it, he pulled his gun and fired. 

"A few seconds ensued, and suddenly...three or four successive gunshots. Then I could feel while still blindfolded and tied that I was being brought out already," De Lima recalled. 

READ: After initially getting blocked by police, US lawmakers get to meet with De Lima

Some unanswered questions

Pespes said police were still trying to understand how Sulayao was able to enter De Lima's room. The former senator was supposedly held separately from the other detainees in the facility.  

Asked about Sulayao's complaints before his death, Pespes denied this but asked reporters to wait for the findings of the investigation. 

At the same press conference Monday morning, Police Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., PNP chief, said that the guards distributing food to the detainees in the outdoor area had already established rapport with them in that time, which might have been taken advantage of. The officer who was stabbed was in stable condition as of Monday morning, he also said.

According to Azurin, Police Lt. Col. Patrick Ramillano, the chief of the PNP Custodial Center, has been relieved for the time being while the PNP conducts its investigation. He also assured the public that the national police is "trying to study and reevaluate" its guidelines on visits for detainees. 

He added that the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group will investigate the incident to check if there were lapses that led to the hostage-taking.

What happens now?

The Office of the Press Secretary said President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has since called on Camp Crame to implement all measures needed to make sure that the incident on Sunday will not happen again.

The chief executive also reportedly gave de Lima the opportunity to transfer detention centers, but she has since declined the offer.

Azurin said they offered to let De Lima stay in the PNP General Hospital in the meantime to allow her to monitor her health problems. 

"Let us not put our guards down. That means, what everyone should do, let's not relax or be complacent," he said in mixed Filipino and English. 

Moving her to the Armed Forces of the Philippines is also on the table, he said, but any transfer would have to be up to the courts. 

De Lima in a statement issued after the ordeal said she was still recovering psychologically and emotionally from the harrowing experience. 

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