BuCor officials discover ‘tunnel’ but unsure what it is for
Authorities at New Bilibid Prison (NBP) have discovered a hole in the ground, but they couldn’t say whether it was an escape tunnel or was made when former prison officials were allegedly digging for gold.
Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer in charge Gregorio Catapang Jr. said in an interview with TV5 on Thursday that the “tunnel” was part of an “excavation project” located close to the Director’s Quarters—the official residence of the BuCor director general.
He said the excavation started in 2019, but he did not specify whether it was during the time of BuCor director general Nicanor Faeldon or Gerald Bantag, who took over in September that year.
Bantag was suspended last month in connection with the murder of radio commentator Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa and inmate Cristito “Jun Villamor” Palaña.
He said “more or less, they were conducting gold hunting in that area,” referring to the former BuCor administration.
The television report did not specify the size of the muddy tunnel, but described the excavation project to be as big as a “baseball field.”
A picture of the hole posted by a former NBP official on his Facebook page showed that it was gouged out of the base of an adobe rock wall.
According to Catapang, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it gave no permit for the excavation project.
Asked whether Bantag might have been involved in the excavation, Catapang said that would still be investigated, but he added that “they could not just proceed with the excavation project if the person who lives in [the Director’s Quarters] does not know about it.”
The backhoe and excavator trucks at the site are owned by BuCor, he said.
He did not respond to the Inquirer’s request for an interview to get more details about the discovery.
The tunnel of still undetermined length goes under the Director’s Quarters’ swimming pool and ends at the Poblacion River at Katarungan Village inside the sprawling NBP reservation.
“If you proceed further, that would be our fence, and then you could escape underneath it,” he said in the television interview.
31 escapes since 2019
Since 2019, BuCor has recorded 31 escapes from its prisons across the country—16 in 2019, two in 2020, six in 2021, and seven as of September 2022.
In the most recent prison break at NBP on Jan. 17 this year, four inmates from the maximum security compound bolted out of the supposedly heavily guarded facility.
Two of them—Pacifico Adlawan and Arwin Bio—were killed in the pursuit by BuCor and the Muntinlupa police.
The other two escapees—Chris Ablas and Drakilou Falcon—remain at large.
This was not the first time that authorities discovered a tunnel in the NBP reservation.
The BuCor headquarters and the NBP’s camps currently occupy a total land area of 254.73 hectares. Other parcels comprising about 190 ha more are being used for the Muntilupa government’s socialized housing, BuCor farms or occupied by informal settlers.
In July 2014, a tunnel was discovered at a pipe-laying project by a water concessionaire, but BuCor officials said it was merely part of their “drainage system” built back in the 1930s.
That tunnel was located behind Building 11-D inside the NBP maximum security compound, which at that time was serving as a detention facility for former soldiers and police officers.
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