Suspended corrections chief Bantag says mysterious tunnel was dug because he loves scuba diving

Screenshots: TV5
Screenshots: TV5

Mystery solved, sort of?

After the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) said last week it was investigating a mysterious tunnel inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), the Philippines’ maximum penitentiary, BuCor director general Gerald Bantag has come forward and said that no, it wasn’t dug up by escaping prisoners or convicts smuggling contraband — he had the hole dug up himself because he loved scuba diving.

Bantag, who was suspended from his post amid his alleged involvement in the killing of broadcaster Percy Lapid, made the straight-faced claim in an interview with News5.

“I know that hole because I was the one who had that dug up. I am a diver, a scuba diver. We were planning to do a deep swimming pool,” Bantag said in Filipino.

Bantag also refuted claims by his successor, acting director-general Pio Catapang, that the hole could have been dug as an escape tunnel, which ends at the Poblacion River at Katarungan Village inside the NBP compound just before the prison’s fence perimeter.

“That tunnel would stretch on for so long! Are they miners to be able to dig that kind of tunnel?” He said, before calling his replacement “boplaks” (stupid).

The hole, said to be 200 meters wide and 30 meters deep, was discovered days after prison inmates surrendered over 12,000 contraband items that included illegal drugs, liquor, weapons, and phones.

This bizarre revelation by Bantag leaves more questions than answers. Last week, murder charges were filed against Bantag and deputy security officer Ricardo Zulueta over the killing of Lapid. A Bilibid inmate allegedly brokered the murder plot against Lapid, who died on the same day one of the gunmen, Joel Estorial, surrendered to authorities. An independent autopsy found that the alleged middleman died after being suffocated with a plastic bag.

READ: Alleged broker in broadcaster Percy Lapid’s killing dies in prison

Man confesses to murder of Percy Lapid, claims prison mastermind behind broadcaster’s killing

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