MANILA, Philippines – "Mr Speaker, I don't want to be the host of the bicameral committee hearing in Cuartel de Sto Domingo."
With this statement, Laguna 1st district Rep Danilo Fernandez manifested on Monday, September 2, his protest against the national government's practice of using Fort Sto Domingo in Sta Rosa, Laguna, as detention center for high-profile crime suspects which, he said, might soon include fellow lawmakers.
The practice, he said, sullies the historic nature of the place, known since the Spanish time as Cuartel de Sto Domingo.
Fernandez spoke at the House of Representatives on the same day that Senate President Franklin Drilon proposed that hearings into the case of Janet Lim-Napoles be conducted at Fort Sto Domingo, where she is detained.
On Sunday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) transferred Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, to Fort Sto Domingo from the Makati City Jail.
In a plenary full of his fellow lawmakers, Fernandez said in his privilege speech: "Bukas makalawa, sino naman po ang ikukulong sa Cuartel de Sto Domingo? Maari pong ang mga senador at kongresista ay akusahan at ikulong. Saan sila ikukulong? Doon uli sa Cuartel de Santo Domingo."
(Tomorrow, who will be jailed in Cuartel de Santo Domingo? Perhaps it senators and congressmen will be accused and jailed. Where will they be detained? At Cuartel de Santo Domingo again.)
"Mr Speaker, I don't want to be the host of the bicameral committee hearing in Cuartel de Sto Domingo," Fernandez added.
Photo from the Santa Rosa Forum
Known as the Intramuros of Santa Rosa, Fort Sto Domingo or Cuartel de Santo Domingo is a Spanish-era fort. Declared a historical marker in 2005, it was said to be built in 1877 to protect the province from rebels from Silang, Cavite. It was also the center of commerce during the Japanese occupation.
Before housing Napoles, Fort Santo Domingo served as a detention facility for former President Joseph Estrada, Senator Gringo Honasan, and Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari.
At present, the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippines is using the area as a training camp. The entrance to the SAF camp itself is not immediately visible from the highway. Visitors would be have to enter a narrow road.
Fernandez wants Laguna to take control of the fort once again, saying that the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines do not have jurisdiction over the area because it does not belong to them. The PNP and the AFP used the property as a sentinel from 1957 to 1990.
“Mr. Speaker, we are bound to stop this, making and having Cuartel de Santo Domino as a site for detention of high-profile persons who are accused of doing unlawful deeds. And we can only do this if we will start to regain possession of the said property,” Fernandez said.
It wasn't clear from Fernandez's speech when the national government took control of the fort from the local government. Fernandez was a board member and then vice governor of Laguna for a long time before he became congressman.