CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija — President Benigno Simeon Aquino III wants the national penitentiary modernized as justice department pushes its transfer to an area in Laur, Nueva Ecija within the Fort Ramon Magsaysay military reservation, a ranking military official said.
“The President wants it done by the end of 2014,” said Lt. Col. Gregorio Pio Catapang, Jr., the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) vice chief of staff.
Considered the largest military camp in the country, the reservation — named after another democracy icon — former President Ramon Magsaysay, houses the Army’s 7th Infantry Division (7th ID), the Scout Ranger Regiment, the Special Forces and the Airborne Forces.
It was also in this reservation where the president’s father, former Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr., and his fellow former senator Jose Diokno were placed under solitary confinement for one month during the Martial Law years.
The transfer is now being worked out in coordination with other government offices such as the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), according to Catapang.
He said it is being eyed as Public Private Partnership (PPP) project of the Aquino administration.
Early this month, DOJ Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, its supervising official on the BurCor and the NBP, said the new facility being eyed is a modern one that will follow international standards and will cost Php40 billion.
Baraan said the 551-hectare NBP in Muntinlupa, which opened in 1940, is now heavily congested as it houses 14,500 prisoners in its maximum security detention area alone although it was programmed to accommodate only 8,400 inmates. All in all, the NBP houses around 20,000 inmates.
Recently, a controversy broke out in the NBP over the alleged unauthorized hospitalization of high-profile inmates, including convicted drug lord and Sigue Sigue Sputnik gang leader Ricardo Camata, Pasig drug flea market operator Amin Buratong and bank robbery gang leader Herbert Colangco.
Baraan said the plan is to convert the Muntinlupa penitentiary, valued at around Php42 billion, into a mixed-use commercial area.
As early as May 2012, the Aquino administration has been working to carry out the transfer of the NBP and the Correctional Institution for Women (CIW) to Fort Magsaysay.
Gaudencio Pangilinan, then-BuCor director, said the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council was also involved in the negotiations.
The plan to transfer the 20,000 inmates from the NBP and 2,000 inmates from the CIW was pursued after local officials in Tanay, Rizal opposed an earlier order to transfer them there.