Inmates Who Escaped During Haiyan Willingly Return to Jail

Prisoners who fled to help their families recover from the typhoon are coming back to face trial.

philippines haiyan
Survivors in the Leyte Province of the Philippines make the slow journey towards recovery. (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

On Nov. 8, when Typhoon Haiyan touched down in the Philippines, 600 detainees from the Leyte Provincial Jail escaped. They didn't have a choice—the winds tore the roofs clean off the tiny complex, which was then almost instantly flooded by water gushing down from the mountains. 

But since then, about half of those inmates have returned, willingly, to face their upcoming trials. According to Agence France-Presse, many spent their time outside helping their families recover from the typhoon's destruction.

"I just wanted to make sure that my family was safe," Renato Comora told the AFP. "After that, I returned on my own because I don't want to live the life of a fugitive." Comora, who's on trial for attempted murder, traveled 18 miles from the jail to his home to check on his wife and kids before turning himself back in to authorities. 

Others who returned reported that while on the outside, they helped family members and neighbors construct makeshift shelters and find food. 

"Our house has been blown away," said Jessie Abalos, who's on trial for drug charges. "So I helped my mother put up a temporary shelter, then I returned." 

The choice to come back was a fairly straightforward proposition for some, such as Danilo Tejones, who's facing rape charges. "I want my case to be finished," he said, "so that I can get free legally."

In the wake of Haiyan, one section of the Leyte Provincial Jail remains standing; it is being used as a temporary housing unit for returning inmates. Some of them find their own way back to the jail, while others present themselves to police vans that regularly make their way through surrounding communities. 

For now, those who return on their own will have their trial dates moved up, so that the innocent can be reunited with their loved ones more quickly. 

Losses stemming from Typhoon Haiyan have been catastrophic for the Philippines. CNN reports that as of Nov. 22, the death toll has reached above 5,000. Injuries incurred as a result of the storm number in the tens of thousands, and about 3 million people have been displaced. 

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