From posh villages to a cell in Camp Crame

Bea Cupin

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From posh villages to a cell in Camp Crame
What awaits Senators Enrile, Revilla, and Estrada at their possible detention center in Camp Crame?

MANILA, Philippines – It’s a stark contrast to the multi-million peso mansions they call home.

There are no special amenities to speak of, not even air-conditioning. Instead they’ll get a double-deck bed with mattresses, a “basic toilet,” a water faucet, and a pail plus dipper. (CARTOON: Jailhouse blues for 3 VIPs)

If and when Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada are served their arrest warrants and whisked off to jail, it’s highly likely they’ll be detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

The 3 senators, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, and 5 others face plunder raps for allegedly stealing millions of pesos in Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or pork barrel through bogus projects and fake non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Plunder is a non-bailable offense.

Graft charges have also been filed against the 3 senators, Napoles and more individuals before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

‘Custodial center ready’

The detention center, according to various media reports, has been renovated – but not necessarily for the purpose of detaining the 3 senators. According to PNP PIO head Chief Superintendent Theodore Sindac, there are 56 cells inside the Crame jail.

The space offered detainees isn’t too shabby – 3 meters by 3 meters. Still, it’s a far cry from the P120-million house Estrada is having built in the posh Wack-Wack subdivision or Revilla’s P100-million mansion inside Ayala Alabang.

Sindac said the Custodial center compound has several buildings, although he declined to disclose how many exactly, for security reasons. Each building is named according to the phonetic alphabet: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and so on.

What sets the custodial center apart from other regular jails? Sindac said not a lot, except for the “high level of security.”

He admitted, however, that jail management and penology isn’t exactly the PNP’s expertise. In the Philippines, jails are run by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), which, like the PNP, is administered by the Interior and Local Government department.

“We’re not BJMP, so we aren’t really trained for jail duties. If anything, we’re more paranoid about security,” he added.


Enrile, Revilla, and Estrada aren’t exactly dreading their possible arrest.

Months ago, during Estrada’s birthday celebration, Revilla jokingly referred to Estrada as his “kakosa” or jail mate. He again made the same joke during a thank-you privilege speech punctuated by a video presentation before the Senate on June 9.

The humor may come in handy if they are detained in the custodial center, which can accomodate up to 130 detainees. Sindac said that at present, over 70 detainees are in the jail.

This means the Crame jail can accommodate the 3 senators and all of the respondents in the plunder and graft cases filed before the Sandiganbayan. Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the scam, is already detained at a PNP camp in Laguna for allegedly kidnapping former-aide-turned-scam-whistleblower Benhur Luy

But the rest of the kakosas of Enrile, Revilla and Estrada are a diverse bunch – from alleged communist leaders, suspended PNP personnel to former officials also accused of corruption.

'NOT END.' In a privilege speech, Revilla tells Estrada and Enrile that their arrest will not be their end because God prepared something better for them. File photo by Alex Nuevaespaña/Senate PRIB

The most recent and highly-publicized of detainees are National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, who were nabbed by police on March 22, 2014. Police and the military, insist, however, that the two are top Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leaders.

According to human rights group Karapatan, the following are still detained at the custodial center:

  • Dionisio Almonte
  • Gloria Almonte 
  • Ramon Argente
  • Lorraine Castillo
  • Joel Enano
  • Renante Gamara 
  • Jeosi Nepa
  • Arlene Panea
  • Eduardo Serrano 
  • Rex Villamor

Dismissed police superintendent Hansel Marantan and several other PNP personnel accused of orchestrating a summary execution in Atimonan, Quezon are also detained in the custodial center. Rizal Alih, who faces charges for the 1989 siege of Camp Cawa-Cawa, has been detained in Crame since 2006.

Other “famous” detainees are: several suspects in the grisly Maguindanao massacre; former election supervisor Lintang Bedol, infamous for his involvement in the “Hello Garci” scandal; former PNP chief Avelino Razon Jr for malversation charges; and former PNP comptrollers Geary Barias and Eliseo de la Paz, also for malversation charges.

Sindac said those charged in the pork barrel scam won’t necessarily be mingling with other detainees, explaining that those jailed in Crame are grouped accordingly. For instance, he said, “you can’t mix the former generals and other detainees.” 

No strangers to Crame

Estrada said during a privilege speech delivered on  Wednesday, June 11, that he would not evade arrest. He is no stranger to arrests and Camp Crame.

 Thirteen years ago, his father, former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada was taken and booked in Crame for plunder charges. 

The younger Estrada was also accused of plunder but was later acquitted

All eyes, though, are on the “senior statesman” of the 3: the 90-year-old Enrile.

Enrile could escape prison because of humanitarian reasons. But the feisty former Senate president said he’s all packed and ready to go. Enrile’s possible detention in Camp Crame is ironic, given his role during the Marcos dictatorship. 

As defense minister, Enrile had supervision over the country’s armed forces which included the Philippine Constabulary, a military force tasked with policing duties. Based in Camp Crame, the Philippine Constabulary was abolished under the Ramos administration to make way for the PNP. 

High-profile or not, Sindac insisted all detainees are considered equal inside the PNP Custodial Center. “Wala kaming special treatment,” he declared. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.