Police officers patrol a street in Tondo, Manila, Philippines. Picture: Erik De Castro/Reuters

Manila, Philippines - Twenty-two inmates, many of them accused of illegal drug-related offences, escaped Friday from a Philippine city jail south of Manila, with three being immediately recaptured, police said.

A jail guard was escorting a prisoner back to a cell Friday in Bacoor city in Cavite province when inmates rushed out and overpowered the guard, police said.

Police said 22 inmates dashed to freedom in the densely populated district of residences, stores and shopping malls just south of the capital. Three were recaptured and the rest were being hunted by policemen.

Philippine jails - often jammed beyond capacity - are notorious for jailbreaks due to poor maintenance, too few guards, corruption and a shortage of maximum-security facilities for high-risk detainees like communist and Muslim insurgents.