Fort Sto. Domingo is in the local Philippine news yet again. Unless you’re hiding under a rock, you should already know that Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the 10-billion-peso Pork Barrel Scam, is currently being detained within this fort. Prior to Mrs. Napoles, other high-profile personalities that have been detained in Fort Sto. Domingo include former President (and now Manila Mayor) Joseph Estrada, Senator Gringo Honasan, and MNLF Chair Nur Misuari.
But did you know that Fort Sto. Domingo is actually a Spanish-era fortification? The Cuartel de Santo Domingo, which is name of the actual fort, was built in 1877 by the Spanish colonial government as a post of the Guardia Civil to defend Laguna against the brigands from Cavite as well as a base of operations against the revolutionary forces under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. Fort Sto. Domingo is considered as the Intramuros of Sta. Rosa, Laguna and is a celebrated historical monument among residents of this city. Due to the Cuartel’s rich history, The then National Historical Institute declared the ruins as a historical site in 2005.
In present times, the Cuartel is part of the larger Fort Sto. Domingo, which serves as the headquarters of the Special Action Force, an elite division under the Philippine National Police. As mentioned above, the base also serves as a secure facility for holding detained people like Mrs. Napoles. Despite the sparse furnishings of the detention facility, the conditions here are much better than most prisons in the country leading to accusations against the goverment that detainees here, all of whom have been accused of serious crimes, are given special treatment. That said, Mayor Estrada said that his detention at Fort Sto. Domingo had been the most depressing period in his life.
If you look at the satellite imagery of the site, you can find the ruins of Cuartel de Santo Domingo right in the middle of the base. The detention facility, where Mrs. Napoles is currently located, is the doubly-fenced building adjacent to the southeast side of the Cuartel. One thing that motorists going to Tagaytay and passing through Sta. Rosa may not realize is that Fort Sto. Domingo is along the way, located just 1.5 kilometers after Nuvali.