THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has declared the digging in a portion of a land within the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) facility as illegal quarrying, Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) officer-in-charge Gregorio Catapang Jr. said Thursday, December 15, 2022.

In a radio interview, Catapang said they are already preparing charges to be filed against those who are responsible for the excavation.

He said respondents on the case may include suspended Bucor director General Gerald Bantag, who earlier admitted that he ordered the excavation to build the deepest swimming pool in Metro Manila for scuba diving training.

Bantag said the project was funded by private firm Atom, to which Bucor entered a joint venture for the transfer of the NBP to Cavite.

The “hole and tunnel” inside the NBP near the director’s quarters, which is approximately 200 meters wide and 30 meters deep, was discovered after Bantag was suspended due to his implication on the killing of veteran radio broadcaster Percy Lapid.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla earlier said Bantag informed him about the excavation around August or September aimed at finding the Yamashita treasure.

The new Bucor leadership also discovered various animals inside the NBP such as horses, which Bantag said was used as an alternative to all-terrain vehicles that jail personnel use for patrolling as well as for pursuing escaping detainees, and snakes that are being used for pest control.

Catapang said the animals, which are being taken care of by several inmates, were illegal. (SunStar Philippines)