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PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

'LAGLAG-BALA' SCAM: TRAVELER TELLS HOW 'BALA' WORKS
[VICTIM ACCOMPANIED AILING, TRAUMATIZED GRANDMOTHER]


NOVEMBER 4 -TARGET Maria Paz Triaz claims that she was stopped at Naia Terminal 3 on Oct. 27 after a bullet was found in her backpack on her departure with hermother, uncle and cancer-stricken grandmother, who had a checkup at a hospital in Singapore. Triaz was allowed to leave after she signed a document stating that the bullet was just an amulet. NANCY C. CARVAJAL MARIA Paz Triaz needed no prodding from anyone to reveal to authorities her traumatic experience as a victim of a “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) scam at the airport last week on her way to Singapore to accompany her cancer-stricken grandmother for a medical checkup. The 34-year-old housewife Tuesday went to the National Bureau of Investigation to recount how a bullet was purportedly planted in her backpack on Oct. 27 and how authorities told her, when she vehemently denied owning it, to sign a document saying that she carried it as an amulet and would be able to board her flight. Triaz said she told the personnel conducting the screening at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 3 she was willing to be detained and face investigators and contest the mysterious presence of the bullet in her backpack. Told that she would not be prosecuted and could continue with her journey, she signed the document. Triaz, her grandmother, mother and uncle then proceeded to Singapore and returned four days later. The incident involving the Triaz family happened amid a national and international outrage over travelers claiming that bullets had been planted in their luggage at the country’s airports as part of an extortion scheme. Enlightened decision The smart-looking housewife, in expensive clothes and wearing jewelry, said going to the NBI was an “enlightened decision.”  “I have to come forward despite the fact that I was not detained after I signed a document that it was an amulet,” Triaz said in an interview at the NBI headquarters. “My mother convinced me that to allow and ignore what happened to me and my family at Terminal 3 of Naia in the morning of Oct. 27 was like tolerating the illegal activities of these airport personnel,” said Triaz, who added she and her grandmother were accompanied by an uncle and her mother in the Singapore trip. “Until now my cancer-stricken grandmother could not be comforted due to the traumatic experience of the thought that I could go to jail,” Triaz said. Ordeal at X-ray scanners Triaz said her family’s ordeal started on their way to the second X-ray scanner when they were told to weigh their carry-on bags to comply with the limit of 7 kilos between 11 a.m. and noon on Oct. 27. She explained that all their bags passed through the first X-ray scanner and were cleared. “After the airline check-in and on our way to the second X-ray scanner, an airport personnel in light blue told us to weigh our hand-carried bags and spread its contents around the bags to comply with the limit,” Triaz narrated. She added that while she was doing the weighing and transferring some of the items from her companions, she dropped her backpack on the floor and proceeded to the second X-ray scanner being manned by three women in light blue uniform. She said she could not see the IDs of the women because they were constantly playing with them. “While waiting for bags to come out from the X-ray conveyor, I overheard one of the women shouting for the owner of a black backpack. I know that nothing prohibited was in my backpack, but it turned out she was referring to my bag,” Triaz said. Backpack shut tight “She instructed me to pick up my bag and told me to put it again in the conveyor for another round of X-ray scan because she claimed she saw something prohibited. After that the officer told me to unlock my backpack and take out all the contents,” she said. “Because of news reports of the tanim-bala scam I made sure that all the zippers were locked except for a small outside pocket which I did not lock because I did not put anything there,” she said. “After taking out all the contents and nothing illegal was found, the woman officer, also in light blue uniform, waved her hands telling us to see that she had nothing in her hands. She then inserted her hands in the outer pocket of my backpack and to my surprise she took out a small plastic like the one use by peanut vendors. She said that inside the plastic was a bullet. “She showed it to me to confirm it was indeed a bullet but I was not allowed to examine it,” Triaz added. “I was angry and scared at the same time, but I did not show panic, although I was scared because of news reports that despite being innocent a passenger found with a bullet in her bag could still be detained and tried for illegal possession. I immediately said that I had to call my lawyer and the NBI,” Triaz said. “One of them told me that someone will talk to me. In my mind, I was suspicious of what they wanted. They acted like it was a normal occurrence for someone to have a bullet in their bags,” Triaz said. READ MORE...

ALSO Money-making business at NAIA terminals: For P160, NAIA will wrap your luggage


NOVEMBER 3 -BULLET-PROOF: Foreigners are seen with plastic-wrapped luggage at a check-in counter at NAIA-3 yesterday as protection against a bullet-planting racket. Airport terminals offer luggage wrapping services at P160 per bag. Travelers who don’t want to pay the additional fee seal their bags at home with packaging tape (left photo). KRIZ JOHN ROSALES/RUDY SANTOS 
Extortion scheme or not, the alleged laglag-bala (bullet-planting) operation at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has become a boon for one of the money earners in the nation’s principal gateway: wrapping of luggage in plastic. Since the scandal erupted, more passengers have been having their bags wrapped tight to prevent pilferage and tampering. Whatever the size of the luggage, the cost of plastic wrapping at the NAIA Terminal 3 is P160 per bag. Plastic wrapping service started at the NAIA Terminal 1 when Alfonso Cusi was the airport manager, but there were few takers. The plastic wrapping stall at NAIA 1 was closed for unknown reasons, according to NAIA 3 manager Octavio Lina. When the alleged laglag-bala cases were recently exposed, plastic wrapping became a lucrative business at the NAIA Terminal 3. Now, more passengers at NAIA 3 on international or domestic flights use the wrapping service, a clerk who requested not to be identified said. “When the news broke out about the scam, several passengers spend more than a hundred pesos for their luggage because they believe it is safer than without plastic wrap,” the clerk added. Some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who want to save money just use packaging tape to wrap their luggage before entering the airport. READ MORE...

ALSO Curiouser and curioser: 4 more caught; 3 say bullets are ‘charms’
[In the afternoon, Rowena Otic, 33, of Nueva Ecija province, who was sending off her Dubai-bound sibling, was intercepted at Terminal 3 for carrying two .38-cal. bullets in a red pouch. Otic told reporters she always carried the bullets as they were her protection against hexes and similar dangers, but she forgot to take them out of her handbag. “I also thought only passengers’ bags were inspected,” she said. The bullets, she added, were given to her by a healer.]


NOVEMBER 4 -CURIOUSER and curiouser. Just when people have dismissed as extortion schemes the recent incidents that had airport personnel finding bullets in the luggage of departing passengers, four new instances of the so-called “tanim-bala” or “laglag-bala” (bullet-planting) scam surfaced on Tuesday.
However, three of the passengers—all women—admitted to the misdeed. But the daughter of 77-year-old Santiago Peñaflorida, a Fil-Am bound for Los Angeles, claimed that the ammunition found in her father’s bag had been planted. If his luggage had indeed contained the bullet, how could it have been cleared at the Iloilo airport where they had just flown in, she asked. Peñaflorida was stopped around 6 p.m. at the initial security screening of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 2 after personnel of the Department of Transportation and Communications-Office for Transportation Security (DOTC-OTS) saw on the X-ray monitor what looked like a bullet inside his locked backpack. .32-cal. bullet His daughter, who was with him, went into hysterics and accused the DOTC-OTS personnel of planting the bullet in the bag. Father and daughter refused to open and have the backpack examined until after members of the media arrived. When the bag was finally opened, it yielded a .32-cal. bullet. Peñaflorida was invited for questioning at the Aviation Security Group-NCR headquarters. Earlier, around 9 in the morning, the Avsegroup also investigated Marilou Rose Espinola, 27, a Bacolod-bound passenger at Naia Terminal 3, when a bullet of still undetermined caliber was found in her carry-on bag when it passed through the X-ray scanner at the departure area’s Gate 2. Espinola admitted finding the bullet and placing it inside her bag, saying she did not know it was prohibited at the airport. In the afternoon, Rowena Otic, 33, of Nueva Ecija province, who was sending off her Dubai-bound sibling, was intercepted at Terminal 3 for carrying two .38-cal. bullets in a red pouch. READ MORE...related, Palace says politics not a factor in ‘tanim-bala’...

ALSO: Naia 'bala' syndicate confirmed; DOJ ordered NBI Task Force
[“The syndicate is composed of various airport workers such as immigration personnel, airport police, X-ray scanners, baggage inspectors and porters, the unnamed NBI source said.]


NOVEMBER 5 -COURT-BOUND, WITH A BULLET Rey Salado, a passenger bound for Cagayan de Oro City, fixes his luggage after a bullet was found in it by screeners at Naia Terminal 3. Salado said the bullet came from a friend. RAFFY LERMA
An extortion syndicate preying mainly on the elderly and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and involving personnel from various state agencies, not only plants bullets in bags of airline passengers but also harasses them by questioning their travel papers, the Inquirer has learned.
Initial findings by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation reveal that some porters identify potential victims of the “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) scam and accomplices in the security and immigration services take over from them inside the four terminals of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia). The activities of the syndicate came to light last month when Gloria Ortinez, 56, a domestic helper in Hong Kong for 26 years, was arrested, detained and charged with carrying bullets in her luggage, despite her tearful denials. Her plight was caught by TV news cameras and went viral on social media. Amid widespread outrage and concern among domestic and international travelers, the NBI began its investigation on orders of Justice Secretary. Alfredo Benjamin Caguiao to “act with dispatch” and report within 15 days, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday. Narrating the activities of the extortion ring, the NBI source, who spoke to the Inquirer on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to speak to the media, said: “Each unit has an assigned task and roles, its members are recruited by longtime workers in the four airport terminals.” “Apart from the now very known bullet-planting extortion, the racket also covers supposed questionable documents and purpose of travel of the passenger,” he said.

ALSO: NBI probes bullet planting; UN issues warning


NOVEMBER 5 -The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) responsible for the security of UN staff sent an internal memo on Tuesday advising its personnel to lock their bags and even wrap them in plastic if passing through NAIA. Philstar.com/File
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has tasked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the increasing laglag-bala (bullet planting) incidents at the Ninoy Aquino  International Airport (NAIA).
Even as the government ordered a probe, security personnel of the United Nations were warned against falling victim to the scheme. The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) responsible for the security of UN staff sent an internal memo on Tuesday advising its personnel to lock their bags and even wrap them in plastic if passing through NAIA. “Officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport are allegedly slipping bullets into passengers’ bags and then trying to extort money from them when bullets are ‘found’ by security,” the UNDSS memo said. The memo also said “surveillance at the airport has been stepped up since the complaints began and an investigation has been launched into the personnel accused of involvement.” The Department of Foreign Affairs said it took note of the UN advisory as it gave assurance authorities are now investigating the incidents. “We note the report on UN advisory. We likewise note that relevant authorities in the Philippines are looking into this laglag-bala matter,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said. Justice Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa ordered the NBI to form a task force under Department Order No. 887 “to probe all incidents of the alleged laglag-bala scam at the NAIA and to similarly undertake a case build-up on the possible criminal and/or administrative liabilities of all individuals and agencies involved, whether public or private.” NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division head agent Manuel Antonio Eduarte was named head of the team, with supervising agents Manuel Fayre Jr. and Dennis Asistio; and special investigators Joselito Guillen, Aubren Cosidon, Rodelio Velez and Marvin Villena as members of “Task Force Talaba (tanim/laglag-bala).” While the NBI probe will be independent of investigations by other agencies, TF Talaba was ordered to coordinate with all relevant agencies to review and evaluate documents and materials related to the scam. The task force would also interview individuals involved, including concerned government officials who are directly and indirectly involved in the scam and gather documents, recording and other data necessary to enable the team to prepare its evaluation. Caguioa told the NBI team to “act with dispatch” and submit within 15 days its report and recommendations to his office. READ MORE...

ALSO: US news anchor calls out ‘laglag bala’ scam
 'WHAT IS WRONG WITH SOME PEOPLE?'


NOVEMBER 5 -FOX NEWS VIDEOGRAB  What is wrong with some people?” Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren said in her segment “Off the Record” amid the series of bullet planting or “laglag bala scam” at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia). Susteren, who is traveling overseas next week, said her Filipino-American friend tipped her off that international travelers were “being targeted by Filipino airport security officials who plant live ammunition in their luggage.” “This scam is all part of a plot to extort money out of the international traveler,” the anchor said. She mentioned that 30 cases of ammunition-related incidents have been recorded in the last 12 months while five international passengers have been arrested in the past two weeks. She said these passengers were “being targeted by Filipino airport security officials who plant live ammunition in their luggage and then busting international travelers for having bullets in his bag. Even holding some passengers for days, telling them they can pay a fine or sit in the slammer facing charges.” “I know what you’re thinking: what is wrong with some people? My answer? I just don’t know,” Susteren said. In 2014, the Fox anchor got embroiled in an issue after she slammed the Thailand government for sitting on radar information regarding the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 where she was described by the The Bangkok Post as “rude and crude.”  Susteren was hailed as among the Forbes 100 most powerful women in 2015. JE  THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO Abaya: 'Laglag-bala' cases blown out of proportion
[PHNO: Another 'blown-out' insensitive PNoy cohort. Please get out! Victims are vulnerable OFWs and the elderly, your 0.004 numbers are inutile. DUH!]


NOVEMBER 4 -Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya is facing administrative and criminal charges before the Office of the Ombudsman over the bullet planting mess at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. File photo
Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya on Wednesday said cases of "laglag bala" or bullet planting in airport terminals "have been blown out of proportion." Abaya said in a press conference that 0.004 percent of the 53.3 million passengers who went through Philippine airports in 2014 were caught with ammunition in their luggage. He noted that an average of 1,500 cases of ammunition-related incidents in airports have been recorded annually. Abaya cited the figures of an ammunition interception report: 2015 - 1,394 cases 2014 - 1,813 cases 2013 - 2,184 cases 2012 - 1,214 cases Office for Transportation Undersecretary Administrator Rolando Recomono added that bullets being found in passengers' luggage is not uncommon. Recomono said that a number of Filipinos have been caught carrying ammunition, using it as amulets or "anting-anting."
“It is incumbent upon us to look into the allegations and to make a determination of what actually happened. We cannot let these incidents slide," Abaya said. The Transportation chief noted that the safety and peace of mind of every Filipino citizen is at stake. "Any incident like this must impel government to examine its procedures, identify weaknesses and come up with solutions and innovations... We cannot simply demonize the people to whom we entrust our safety," Abaya said. Abaya, Recomono, Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Angel Honrado and Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group director Chief Supt. Pablo Francisco Balagtas are facing criminal and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman over the bullet planting scheme. THE FULL REPORT, 2 RELATED ...RELATED, ‘Tanim-bala’ caught on camera, 2 NAIA personnel...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Traveler tells how ‘bala’ works


TARGET Maria Paz Triaz claims that she was stopped at Naia Terminal 3 on Oct. 27 after a bullet was found in her backpack on her departure with hermother, uncle and cancer-stricken grandmother, who had a checkup at a hospital in Singapore. Triaz was allowed to leave after she signed a document stating that the bullet was just an amulet. NANCY C. CARVAJAL

MANILA, NOVEMBER 9, 2015 (INQUIRER) By: Nancy C. Carvajal @inquirerdotnet November 4th, 2015 - MARIA Paz Triaz needed no prodding from anyone to reveal to authorities her traumatic experience as a victim of a “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) scam at the airport last week on her way to Singapore to accompany her cancer-stricken grandmother for a medical checkup.

The 34-year-old housewife Tuesday went to the National Bureau of Investigation to recount how a bullet was purportedly planted in her backpack on Oct. 27 and how authorities told her, when she vehemently denied owning it, to sign a document saying that she carried it as an amulet and would be able to board her flight.

Triaz said she told the personnel conducting the screening at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 3 she was willing to be detained and face investigators and contest the mysterious presence of the bullet in her backpack. Told that she would not be prosecuted and could continue with her journey, she signed the document.

Triaz, her grandmother, mother and uncle then proceeded to Singapore and returned four days later.

The incident involving the Triaz family happened amid a national and international outrage over travelers claiming that bullets had been planted in their luggage at the country’s airports as part of an extortion scheme.

Enlightened decision

The smart-looking housewife, in expensive clothes and wearing jewelry, said going to the NBI was an “enlightened decision.”

“I have to come forward despite the fact that I was not detained after I signed a document that it was an amulet,” Triaz said in an interview at the NBI headquarters.

“My mother convinced me that to allow and ignore what happened to me and my family at Terminal 3 of Naia in the morning of Oct. 27 was like tolerating the illegal activities of these airport personnel,” said Triaz, who added she and her grandmother were accompanied by an uncle and her mother in the Singapore trip.

“Until now my cancer-stricken grandmother could not be comforted due to the traumatic experience of the thought that I could go to jail,” Triaz said.

Ordeal at X-ray scanners

Triaz said her family’s ordeal started on their way to the second X-ray scanner when they were told to weigh their carry-on bags to comply with the limit of 7 kilos between 11 a.m. and noon on Oct. 27.

She explained that all their bags passed through the first X-ray scanner and were cleared.

“After the airline check-in and on our way to the second X-ray scanner, an airport personnel in light blue told us to weigh our hand-carried bags and spread its contents around the bags to comply with the limit,” Triaz narrated.

She added that while she was doing the weighing and transferring some of the items from her companions, she dropped her backpack on the floor and proceeded to the second X-ray scanner being manned by three women in light blue uniform. She said she could not see the IDs of the women because they were constantly playing with them.

“While waiting for bags to come out from the X-ray conveyor, I overheard one of the women shouting for the owner of a black backpack. I know that nothing prohibited was in my backpack, but it turned out she was referring to my bag,” Triaz said.

Backpack shut tight

“She instructed me to pick up my bag and told me to put it again in the conveyor for another round of X-ray scan because she claimed she saw something prohibited. After that the officer told me to unlock my backpack and take out all the contents,” she said.

“Because of news reports of the tanim-bala scam I made sure that all the zippers were locked except for a small outside pocket which I did not lock because I did not put anything there,” she said.

“After taking out all the contents and nothing illegal was found, the woman officer, also in light blue uniform, waved her hands telling us to see that she had nothing in her hands. She then inserted her hands in the outer pocket of my backpack and to my surprise she took out a small plastic like the one use by peanut vendors. She said that inside the plastic was a bullet.

“She showed it to me to confirm it was indeed a bullet but I was not allowed to examine it,” Triaz added.

“I was angry and scared at the same time, but I did not show panic, although I was scared because of news reports that despite being innocent a passenger found with a bullet in her bag could still be detained and tried for illegal possession. I immediately said that I had to call my lawyer and the NBI,” Triaz said.

“One of them told me that someone will talk to me. In my mind, I was suspicious of what they wanted. They acted like it was a normal occurrence for someone to have a bullet in their bags,” Triaz said.

READ MORE...

‘Let’s fix this’

“I was so worried, looking at how pale my sick grandmother was when she heard the declaration of the airport staff and my crying mother, but I stood my ground because I know I was innocent,” she said.

Triaz said a woman, also in a light blue uniform who looked older, came and told her, “Let’s fix this.”

“I did not want to pay, I immediately told the lady officer I am willing to be detained and go through the process of investigation because I could prove that I am innocent. When they sensed that I was not willing to leave, the older woman then said, ‘Let’s keep it among us.’ They asked me to sign a record book that the bullet was for my anting-anting (amulet) and allowed me and my family to board the plane without further harassment,” Triaz said.

NBI to summon records

An NBI special investigator said the agency would request airport records and video to verify the narration of Triaz.

“If it’s true that she had a bullet in the pocket of her bag, there should have been an investigation. Asking her to sign a piece of paper stating that it was for an amulet was highly irregular,” the investigator said.

Complaint filed

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday filed a complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman calling for the suspension or dismissal of Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya for neglect of duty and command responsibility. Also named in the complaint were MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado, Office for Transportation Security Administrator Roland Recomono and the Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group head, Pablo Balagtas.

“They are not only in denial, but it’s like there is no problem. There is no one in charge,” Cayetano said. “The government does not want to accept that there is a problem.”

“Let’s leave it to the Ombudsman,” Balagtas said when asked for comment.

Malacañang has downplayed the alleged existence of an extortion syndicate at the country’s airports and shrugged off calls for heads to roll at the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and agencies tasked to secure airline travelers. It said many travelers caught with bullets in their bags had said these were (used as) amulets.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda Tuesday said President Aquino had directed the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to conduct an investigation.

“The President has given instructions, and hopefully within this week, DOTC will share with the public the measures that will be taken,” Lacierda said. “I don’t share that cultural thing of bringing amulets, but I understand a number of people consider bullets as amulets. So, that’s being looked into.”

The DOTC said it had introduced changes in baggage handling at Naia and that more closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras were being installed.

“We continue our investigation and info gathering to ensure any operation of tanim-bala, if ever there is any, is addressed and halted, said Abaya, whose department has been accused of corruption and inefficiency. With reports from Jaymee T. Gamil, Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Tina G. Santos, Jeannette I. Andrade and Miguel R. Camus


PHILSTAR

For P160, NAIA will wrap your luggage By Rudy Santos (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 3, 2015 - 12:00am 54 28.4K googleplus1 7


BULLET-PROOF: Foreigners are seen with plastic-wrapped luggage at a check-in counter at NAIA-3 yesterday as protection against a bullet-planting racket. Airport terminals offer luggage wrapping services at P160 per bag. Travelers who don’t want to pay the additional fee seal their bags at home with packaging tape (left photo). KRIZ JOHN ROSALES/RUDY SANTOS

MANILA, Philippines - Extortion scheme or not, the alleged laglag-bala (bullet-planting) operation at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has become a boon for one of the money earners in the nation’s principal gateway: wrapping of luggage in plastic.

Since the scandal erupted, more passengers have been having their bags wrapped tight to prevent pilferage and tampering.

Whatever the size of the luggage, the cost of plastic wrapping at the NAIA Terminal 3 is P160 per bag.

Plastic wrapping service started at the NAIA Terminal 1 when Alfonso Cusi was the airport manager, but there were few takers.

The plastic wrapping stall at NAIA 1 was closed for unknown reasons, according to NAIA 3 manager Octavio Lina.

When the alleged laglag-bala cases were recently exposed, plastic wrapping became a lucrative business at the NAIA Terminal 3.

Now, more passengers at NAIA 3 on international or domestic flights use the wrapping service, a clerk who requested not to be identified said.

“When the news broke out about the scam, several passengers spend more than a hundred pesos for their luggage because they believe it is safer than without plastic wrap,” the clerk added.

Some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who want to save money just use packaging tape to wrap their luggage before entering the airport.

READ MORE...

Office of Transportation Security (OTS) said most of the interception of bullets occurred at the airport’s final security check, a few meters away from the boarding area.

Jess Martinez, assistant head of Media Affairs Division of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), said that, as always, it would be better for passengers to practice vigilance whenever traveling and going to places of public convergence.

“While it is unsettling that there is fear among our riding public, it is understandable. MIAA assures the public that all concerned agencies are closely looking into this already. Surveillance has been enhanced ever since reports were brought to the attention of management,” Martinez added.

The latest case occurred Sunday morning at the NAIA Terminal 1 when the carry-on bag of Nimfa Fontamillas, a 65-year-old passenger bound for Singapore, allegedly yielded a 9 mm bullet.

OTS members denied allegations that they were the one who planted bullets in passengers’ bags.

Republic Act 8294 penalizes “illegal/unlawful possession, manufacture, dealing in, acquisition or disposition of firearms, ammunition or explosives or instruments used in the manufacture of firearms, ammunition or explosives and imposing stiffer penalties for certain violations.”


 

 

INQUIRER

Curiouser and curioser: 4 more caught; 3 say bullets are ‘charms’ SHARES: 177 VIEW COMMENTS By: Jeannette I. Andrade @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:42 AM November 4th, 2015

CURIOUSER and curiouser.

Just when people have dismissed as extortion schemes the recent incidents that had airport personnel finding bullets in the luggage of departing passengers, four new instances of the so-called “tanim-bala” or “laglag-bala” (bullet-planting) scam surfaced on Tuesday.

However, three of the passengers—all women—admitted to the misdeed. But the daughter of 77-year-old Santiago Peñaflorida, a Fil-Am bound for Los Angeles, claimed that the ammunition found in her father’s bag had been planted.

If his luggage had indeed contained the bullet, how could it have been cleared at the Iloilo airport where they had just flown in, she asked.

Peñaflorida was stopped around 6 p.m. at the initial security screening of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 2 after personnel of the Department of Transportation and Communications-Office for Transportation Security (DOTC-OTS) saw on the X-ray monitor what looked like a bullet inside his locked backpack.

.32-cal. bullet

His daughter, who was with him, went into hysterics and accused the DOTC-OTS personnel of planting the bullet in the bag. Father and daughter refused to open and have the backpack examined until after members of the media arrived.

When the bag was finally opened, it yielded a .32-cal. bullet. Peñaflorida was invited for questioning at the Aviation Security Group-NCR headquarters.

Earlier, around 9 in the morning, the Avsegroup also investigated Marilou Rose Espinola, 27, a Bacolod-bound passenger at Naia Terminal 3, when a bullet of still undetermined caliber was found in her carry-on bag when it passed through the X-ray scanner at the departure area’s Gate 2.

Espinola admitted finding the bullet and placing it inside her bag, saying she did not know it was prohibited at the airport.

In the afternoon, Rowena Otic, 33, of Nueva Ecija province, who was sending off her Dubai-bound sibling, was intercepted at Terminal 3 for carrying two .38-cal. bullets in a red pouch.

READ MORE...

Otic told reporters she always carried the bullets as they were her protection against hexes and similar dangers, but she forgot to take them out of her handbag. “I also thought only passengers’ bags were inspected,” she said. The bullets, she added, were given to her by a healer.

‘Charms’

Two hours later, Milagrosa Cadiente, 48, was stopped at the same Gate 6 of Terminal 3 for having a 9 mm-cal. bullet in her wallet. She just forgot to take it out of her bag, claimed Cadiente. She was fetching her employer, who had come from Japan, she added.

Cadiente also called on lawmakers to amend the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.

“It is just stupid to put people in jail for one or two bullets. They have to understand that Filipinos carry them as charms,” she said.

The four were taken into police custody on Tuesday and will be charged with illegal possession of ammunition in the Pasay City Prosecutor’s Office.

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Palace says politics not a factor in ‘tanim-bala’ posted November 04, 2015 at 12:01 am by Sandy Araneta


Complaint. Senator Allan Peter Cayetano (right), and Dante Jimenez are sworn in at the Office of the Ombudsman where they filed an administrative complaint against Naia manager Jose Angel Honrado and Transport Secretary Jose Abaya over the bullet scam at the airport.

THE Palace brushed aside Tuesday any political motives behind the widening scandal over an extortion racket at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in which bullets are planted in luggage to bilk money from travelers.

“You know, let’s set aside any political color and we will look into the data as objectively as we can. We just want to make sure that we presented the entire picture properly,” said Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, when asked about suggestions from Aquino supporters that the entire affair was the work of the political opposition.

“The DoTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) will inform us of the entire picture, the data, the process and areas for improvement. I don’t want to preempt DoTC,” Lacierda added.

Lacierda also denied reports that Manila International Airport Authority genaral manager Jose Angel Honrado was summoned by President Benigno Aquino III to the Palace to explain the bullet-planting incidents.

“No. He was not summoned today,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said some measures—such as the installation of additional closed-circuit TVs—have been taken.

He added that the DoTC will also respond to a complaint filed by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Lacierda played down threats by militant group Migrante, to boycott the administration’s Liberal Party during elections.

“You know, it’s a free country. What we’re going to do is we are going to tell, within this week, what measures the government will be taking, and the DoTC will be announcing it... We hope… the DoTC will be able to convince our countrymen, our OFWs, that measures are being undertaken and it’s not true that we are not doing anything about it. But, again, we leave it to the judgment of each and every voter,” Lacierda said.

READ MORE...

Lacierda and a spokeswoman for the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group, Supt. Jeanne Panisan, also said some Filipinos were carrying bullets as “anting-anting” or bullets.

In a briefing at Camp Crame, Panisan said some Filipinos deeply believed the bullets would ward off evil spirits.

At the airport, personnel of the Office of Transportation Security said they were demoralized by the tanim-bala scandal that is being blamed on their group.

OTS team leaders Melinda Lansangan, Seferino de Ocampo and other OTS personnel assigned at the Naia terminals said that recent events had caused them so much embarrassment, and that they felt their leaders had abandoned them amid the controversy.

Facebook users even posted comments and even threatened with physical harm.

Lansangan said they are being persecuted in public while the case is still being investigated.


INQUIRER

Naia syndicate confirmed By: Nancy C. Carvajal @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:14 AM November 5th, 2015

NBI: USUAL ‘BALA’ TARGETS ARE GULLIBLE OFWS, THE ELDERLY


COURT-BOUND, WITH A BULLET Rey Salado, a passenger bound for Cagayan de Oro City, fixes his luggage after a bullet was found in it by screeners at Naia Terminal 3. Salado said the bullet came from a friend. RAFFY LERMA

An extortion syndicate preying mainly on the elderly and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and involving personnel from various state agencies, not only plants bullets in bags of airline passengers but also harasses them by questioning their travel papers, the Inquirer has learned.

Initial findings by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation reveal that some porters identify potential victims of the “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) scam and accomplices in the security and immigration services take over from them inside the four terminals of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).

The activities of the syndicate came to light last month when Gloria Ortinez, 56, a domestic helper in Hong Kong for 26 years, was arrested, detained and charged with carrying bullets in her luggage, despite her tearful denials. Her plight was caught by TV news cameras and went viral on social media.

Amid widespread outrage and concern among domestic and international travelers, the NBI began its investigation on orders of Justice Secretary.

Alfredo Benjamin Caguiao to “act with dispatch” and report within 15 days, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

Narrating the activities of the extortion ring, the NBI source, who spoke to the Inquirer on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to speak to the media, said: “Each unit has an assigned task and roles, its members are recruited by longtime workers in the four airport terminals.”

“Apart from the now very known bullet-planting extortion, the racket also covers supposed questionable documents and purpose of travel of the passenger,” he said.

READ MORE...

“The syndicate is composed of various airport workers such as immigration personnel, airport police, X-ray scanners, baggage inspectors and porters, the source said.

Usual targets

“The usual targets are OFWs who are easily duped and the elderly who easily get nervous,” he said. “The group had a profile of their victims who they see as gullible and could easily be bullied.”

The source explained that in the case of tanim-bala, X-ray scanners and baggage inspectors under the Department of Transportation and Communications-Office for Transportation Security (DOTC-OTS) have no police powers and are not authorized by law to make an arrest and need the Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group (PNP-Avsegroup) to step in, make the arrest and file the appropriate charges.

“OTS personnel or X-ray scanners as well as baggage inspectors cannot make an arrest,” he said. “An airport police should be summoned to make a believable scam.”

While the role of the porter is “to spot a target and sometimes a planter of supposed evidence whichever is convenient for possible airport violations,” the source said.

NBI agents are looking at records as far as several years ago to determine and identify members of the syndicate.

“They are now cross-referencing the incident report and airport workers on duty and even those who are in the immediate vicinity of the area and make them explain their presence,” the source said.

100 bullets seized

The source said that based on the records furnished by airport officials, close to 100 rounds of ammunitions of various calibers had been seized by OTS personnel since January of this year.

The source added that seized evidence like bullets and slugs would be subjected to forensic tests, including fingerprints to determine its origin.

Stories of victims of harassment of departing passengers, mostly unaccompanied, center on their alleged lack of proof of sufficient reason to travel.

“They will ask for documents, such as letters of invitations, just to delay the passenger and impress on the unsuspecting victim that she or he had been profiled. Most of the victims were seafarers who usually carry money and almost always have various destinations. They will ask for a visa despite the explanation of some seafarers that visa will be issued by their employer in the next destination,” the source said.

According to the source, sometimes the intention was simply just to delay the passenger, especially those who were rushing to board their flights.

“These airport workers will accept anything from the harassed passengers who sometimes were even grateful to be allowed to leave,” the source said.

NBI task force

The justice department spokesperson, Emmanuel Caparas, told reporters Wednesday that an NBI special task force had been formed to look into the airport scams.

The task force will “undertake an investigation on all incidents of the tanim-bala scam at

Naia to similarly undertake a case buildup on the possible criminal and/or administrative liabilities of all individuals and agencies involved, whether public or private,” according to a department order that Caguioa signed on Monday and released Wednesday.

The NBI agents assigned to the task force are Manuel Antonio Eduarte, chief; Manuel Fayre Jr., executive officer; Dennis Asistio, team leader; Joselito Guillen, assistant team leader; and Aubren Cosidon, Rodelio Velez and Marvin Villena, members.

Caguioa ordered the task force to coordinate with “all relevant government agencies” to accomplish their job.

At least two alleged victims of tanim-bala have sought the help of the NBI: American missionary Lane Michael White and Maria Paz Triaz.

Lane, who was detained after arriving from the United States, was charged with illegal possession of ammunition but was freed on bail. Triaz was allowed to leave for Singapore after signing a waiver stating that the bullet found in her bag was an amulet. With a report from Jerome Aning


PHILSTAR

NBI probes bullet planting; UN issues warning By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 5, 2015 - 12:00am 2 1612 googleplus0 3


The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) responsible for the security of UN staff sent an internal memo on Tuesday advising its personnel to lock their bags and even wrap them in plastic if passing through NAIA. Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has tasked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the increasing laglag-bala (bullet planting) incidents at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Even as the government ordered a probe, security personnel of the United Nations were warned against falling victim to the scheme.

The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) responsible for the security of UN staff sent an internal memo on Tuesday advising its personnel to lock their bags and even wrap them in plastic if passing through NAIA.

“Officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport are allegedly slipping bullets into passengers’ bags and then trying to extort money from them when bullets are ‘found’ by security,” the UNDSS memo said.

The memo also said “surveillance at the airport has been stepped up since the complaints began and an investigation has been launched into the personnel accused of involvement.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it took note of the UN advisory as it gave assurance authorities are now investigating the incidents.

“We note the report on UN advisory. We likewise note that relevant authorities in the Philippines are looking into this laglag-bala matter,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.

Justice Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa ordered the NBI to form a task force under Department Order No. 887 “to probe all incidents of the alleged laglag-bala scam at the NAIA and to similarly undertake a case build-up on the possible criminal and/or administrative liabilities of all individuals and agencies involved, whether public or private.”

NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division head agent Manuel Antonio Eduarte was named head of the team, with supervising agents Manuel Fayre Jr. and Dennis Asistio; and special investigators Joselito Guillen, Aubren Cosidon, Rodelio Velez and Marvin Villena as members of “Task Force Talaba (tanim/laglag-bala).”

While the NBI probe will be independent of investigations by other agencies, TF Talaba was ordered to coordinate with all relevant agencies to review and evaluate documents and materials related to the scam.

The task force would also interview individuals involved, including concerned government officials who are directly and indirectly involved in the scam and gather documents, recording and other data necessary to enable the team to prepare its evaluation.

Caguioa told the NBI team to “act with dispatch” and submit within 15 days its report and recommendations to his office.

READ MORE...

DOJ spokesman Emmanuel Caparas said Caguioa decided to order the probe, noting the increasing number of cases of alleged extortion incidents at the NAIA involving passengers supposedly caught with bullets in their luggage.

Last Tuesday, Maria Paz Trias went to the NBI to detail her experience as a victim of the scam last week while on her way to Singapore to accompany her grandmother for a medical checkup.

The scheme involves inserting a bullet in the luggage of an unsuspecting passenger before a shakedown.

The bullet planting incidents were said to be part of an extortion scheme of some airport personnel that has victimized several Filipino migrant workers and tourists at an alarming frequency.

Eduarte, for his part, urged the victims to file their complaints directly before the NBI.

“We are encouraging the victims to come forward and go to the NBI office to file their complaints because we are now in the process of gathering data and we need to get information from those who have cases in court and even those who agreed to a settlement,” Eduarte said.

Malacañang, on the other hand, assured the public that the incidents are being investigated, though it lamented the UN advisory was “unfortunate.”

“That’s an unfortunate development and we hope that, moving forward with the new measures that will be implemented, there will be no need for such advisories in the future,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

Valte assured the public President Aquino has been apprised of the figures regarding the arrests or charges filed against those who were found carrying live ammunition in the airport.

“The President has seen the data because he was specifically after how many cases, how many live bullets out of those cases, what are the geographical breakdown of all of that because you know how the President thinks on that level,” she said. – With Pia Lee- Brago, Delon Porcalla, Evelyn Macairan


INQUIRER

US news anchor calls out ‘laglag bala’ scam:  'WHAT IS WRONG WITH SOME PEOPLE?' By: Nestor Corrales @NCorralesINQ INQUIRER.net 04:47 PM November 5th, 2015

What is wrong with some people?” Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren said in her segment “Off the Record” amid the series of bullet planting or “laglag bala scam” at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).

Susteren, who is traveling overseas next week, said her Filipino-American friend tipped her off that international travelers were “being targeted by Filipino airport security officials who plant live ammunition in their luggage.”

“This scam is all part of a plot to extort money out of the international traveler,” the anchor said.

She mentioned that 30 cases of ammunition-related incidents have been recorded in the last 12 months while five international passengers have been arrested in the past two weeks.

She said these passengers were “being targeted by Filipino airport security officials who plant live ammunition in their luggage and then busting international travelers for having bullets in his bag.

Even holding some passengers for days, telling them they can pay a fine or sit in the slammer facing charges.” “I know what you’re thinking: what is wrong with some people? My answer? I just don’t know,” Susteren said.

In 2014, the Fox anchor got embroiled in an issue after she slammed the Thailand government for sitting on radar information regarding the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 where she was described by the

The Bangkok Post as “rude and crude.”

Susteren was hailed as among the Forbes 100 most powerful women in 2015. JE


PHILSTAR

Abaya: 'Laglag-bala' cases blown out of proportion By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated November 4, 2015 - 2:06pm 8 209 googleplus1 0


Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya is facing administrative and criminal charges before the Office of the Ombudsman over the bullet planting mess at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya on Wednesday said cases of "laglag bala" or bullet planting in airport terminals "have been blown out of proportion."

Abaya said in a press conference that 0.004 percent of the 53.3 million passengers who went through Philippine airports in 2014 were caught with ammunition in their luggage.

He noted that an average of 1,500 cases of ammunition-related incidents in airports have been recorded annually.

Abaya cited the figures of an ammunition interception report:

2015 - 1,394 cases 2014 - 1,813 cases 2013 - 2,184 cases 2012 - 1,214 cases Office for Transportation Undersecretary Administrator Rolando Recomono added that bullets being found in passengers' luggage is not uncommon.

Recomono said that a number of Filipinos have been caught carrying ammunition, using it as amulets or "anting-anting."

“It is incumbent upon us to look into the allegations and to make a determination of what actually happened. We cannot let these incidents slide," Abaya said.

The Transportation chief noted that the safety and peace of mind of every Filipino citizen is at stake.

"Any incident like this must impel government to examine its procedures, identify weaknesses and come up with solutions and innovations... We cannot simply demonize the people to whom we entrust our safety," Abaya said.

Abaya, Recomono, Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Angel Honrado and Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group director Chief Supt. Pablo Francisco Balagtas are facing criminal and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman over the bullet planting scheme.

RELATED: Senate, House bills filed vs bullet-planting scam

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Abaya, airport chief face raps over bullet planting at NAIA By Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 4, 2015 - 12:00am 0 4 googleplus0 1


A passenger prepares her luggage for inspection at the NAIA yesterday. RUDY SANTOS

MANILA, Philippines - Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and officials led by Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Angel Honrado face criminal and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman over the laglag-bala or bullet planting mess at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The complainants led by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano accused Abaya and Honrado of failing to stop the alleged laglag-bala shakedown scheme.

Also named respondents were Office of Transportation Security (OTS) administrator Rolando Recomono and Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group director Chief Supt. Pablo Francisco Balagtas.

In the complaint filed yesterday, Cayetano and the petitioners urged the ombudsman to order the preventive suspension of the officials pending completion of the probe.

Abaya, who had earlier said the case was still being investigated, said he wanted to read the complaint first before commenting on it.

Cayetano, along with Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption founding chairman Dante Jimenez and Robert Lim Joseph representing the groups Network of Independent Travel Agents, Tourism Educators and Movers of the Philippines and League of Tourism Students of the Philippines, said the Office of the Ombudsman should investigate the transport and airport officials for possible criminal liability and negligence under Executive Order No. 226.

The complaint alleged the laglag-bala has victimized several Filipino migrant workers and tourists at an alarming frequency.

The scheme involves inserting a bullet in the luggage of an unsuspecting passenger before a shakedown.

The bullet planting incidents were said to be part of an extortion scheme of some airport personnel.

“This scam is by no means new,” the petitioners said, citing the case of a journalist victimized by the scam several years ago.

“These incidents cause a chilling effect among OFWs, who instead of feeling comfort and rest in their home country, find themselves fearful of and vulnerable to the predatory advances of airport personnel,” the complaint said.

The petitioners said the scheme leaves “a black spot in tourism efforts” and will scare away potential tourists.

International news outfits like TIME and BBC have also drawn attention to the scam, “bringing this embarrassment to a wider global audience,” they stressed.

The complaint alleged that to date, “there are no comprehensive, proactive and preventive efforts undertaken to address the scam once and for all by the government, which has been callous enough to call the number of victims of the scam as ‘isolated cases.’

“Instead of acting immediately when the first case was made public in the Facebook post of one of the victims, Rhed Austria de Guzman, respondents continued to treat the case as isolated and continued to do so even if more cases have been reported,” the complainants said, pointing out that the DOTC called for a meeting only yesterday.

Cayetano and the petitioners slammed what they branded as “gross inaction” by the officials concerned in the scheme.

This developed as Jose Marie Paz Trias, a 34-year-old housewife, filed a complaint before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) yesterday, alleging airport personnel planted a bullet in the front pouch of her backpack.

Trias said the bullet, which was wrapped in a small transparent plastic, was found in the front zipper pocket of her gray-colored bag.

Trias said she was accosted along with her mother, grandmother and uncle at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 while about to board a Cebu Pacific flight to Singapore on Oct. 27.

She said the handcarried luggage was being passed through the second X-ray when someone told her that one of the bags of her uncle was heavy and they had to transfer some of its contents to another bag.

“It was at that time when I lost sight of my bag because our focus was in removing some of the contents from one bag and transferring them to another bag. There is also the possibility that someone might have placed the bullet there without my knowing when I was in the airport because I checked my bag twice before the flight and that front pocket was empty,” Trias said.

She was then told to open the bag, and she opened the two big zippers with padlock and removed its contents, but when a female airport personnel checked on the small zipper, the officer pulled out the bullet.

She was then told that a higher official would talk to her. Before the officer arrived she made inquiries if she could talk to a lawyer and the NBI. She believed that the authorities were alerted when she mentioned the NBI.

An older senior airport personnel then approached her and immediately said, “Let us just fix this.”

But before the senior official could say anything else, Trias cut her off and said that she is willing to go to jail because she knows she is innocent.

She asked why would a bullet be in her bag when their purpose of traveling was to go to Singapore to treat her grandmother suffering from leukemia.

The officer then offered to let her go and said they would just try to make it appear that the bullet was an amulet. Trias said she was made to sign their logbook with an already handwritten prepared report on the incident.

She was then allowed to leave the country and experienced no other hitches.

Damage control Malacañang, on the other hand, left it to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to resolve the issue.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the DOTC is investigating the scheme.

He said the DOTC – which supervises the airports – has “refined the efforts that are being undertaken.”

“So, at some point, and hopefully within this week, DOTC will share to the public the measures that will be taken,” Lacierda said.

“I can assure you that the measures that are going to be undertaken by the DOTC will take into consideration some of the matters that are being discussed,” he said.

Abaya said the DOTC would continue its investigation into the incidents.

“We continue our investigation and information gathering to ensure any operation of tanim bala, if ever there is any, is addressed and halted,” he said.

Abaya said the airport authorities have modified procedures in handling baggage where only passengers could handle them.

Lawmakers led by Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct an inventory of all past arrests concerning confiscation of ammunition at the airports.

He said the scheme has opened up serious doubts as to the authenticity and legitimacy of all the previous arrests involving alleged seizures of ammunition.

Nograles also supported calls for the resignation of Honrado.

“NAIA just used to be the world’s worst airport but now, it has become the world’s only airport with a bullet farm because of this tanim-bala racket. All these things happened under the watch of Honrado. There was never a time when NAIA was the object of so much ridicule and scandal on a constant basis until Honrado came along,” he said.

Party-list Reps. Samuel Pagdilao of ACT-CIS and Gary Alejano of Magdalo said Honrado should not cling to his post and seek protection of President Aquino, who is said to be a distant relative.

“Nobody should be spared, not even relatives, if he or she is found to be negligent,” Alejano said.

Pagdilao, a former police official, said Honrado should resign or be relieved of his post as in the case of police station chiefs found to be remiss in their duties.

Why only now? Sen. Francis Escudero, for his part, questioned the timing and frequency of the extortion scheme at the airports.

Escudero said it was incredible that all of a sudden there was an increase in the number of airport passengers carrying bullets in their luggage, whether these were amulets or for whatever purpose.

“Are we to believe that all of a sudden so many people thought of carrying bullets in their luggage? Now that Christmas is drawing near?” Escudero remarked.

He lamented the passengers charged with illegal possession of ammunition were forced to shell out P150,000 in bail.

“Not everyone can come up with that amount. In fact, nobody should ever have to raise bail money for a crime he did not commit,” Escudero said.

Apart from the injustice done on the unsuspecting passengers, Escudero said that the scam could erase all of the gains made by the government in promoting the country as a tourist destination.

“The crooks behind this tanim bala are not just planting bullets, they are sowing a sense of insecurity among travelers that will be difficult to address later on. The government has to end this tanim bala scheme now or we will lose our advantage as an emerging travel destination,” he added.

Sen. Grace Poe said the Senate committees on public order and public services would conduct an inquiry soon on the tanim bala incidents.

She said Honrado would be invited to the hearing to explain why this is happening and what is being done to address the issue.

“It is not enough to say that you are investigating this. It is important to know what is being done now,” Poe said.

She suggested the National Bureau of Investigation should be brought in to conduct its own independent investigation.

“It is both sad and infuriating that this is the way we are repaying our so-called modern day heroes. What we should do now is to replace the people who are securing them (airports),” Poe said.

Poe said Honrado should put an end to the tanim bala scam within a week or step down from his post.

She said Honrado should do everything possible, including personally monitoring all of the inspections taking place within the airports.

Pagdilao, for his part, advised victims of the extortion racket to know their rights and demand the specific violations they allegedly committed.

Second, they should immediately avail themselves of the services of a lawyer or any “responsible officer,” who may include even members of the media, to witness the inspection of their belongings, he said.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, who filed a resolution calling for an investigation into the laglag bala scam, stressed the urgency to look into the incidents, saying it has become an international embarrassment for the country.

“It is necessary to determine the persons or syndicate responsible and how they conduct their operations for their laglag bala or tanim bala scheme to find out possible loopholes in airport security policies, rules, regulations and laws,” he said.

Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop, a former police official, said the reforms should start with the recruitment process of airport personnel.

No effect on tourism Despite the possible fallout over the bullet planting incidents, the Department of Tourism (DOT) expects a “very busy” last two months with the arrival of tourists in the country.

“We have received several queries but we are not aware of effect on tourist arrivals. The Philippines continues to achieve new highs in arrivals and we look forward to a very busy last two months of the year and to an even busier 2016,” DOT Undersecretary Maria Victoria Jasmin said.

Jasmin though admitted it is necessary to immediately resolve the issue because every single incident will definitely affect tourism.

“It can affect in the sense that there’s fear, psychologically they are worried of the possible impact of their travel not only in Philippines but within the Philippines,” she said.

Jasmin said the DOT is upbeat that the country’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit on Nov. 18 and 19 will not have any significant negative effect on the arrival of world leaders.

“We really call on our kababayans to be one in the spirit of hosting APEC. This is the best time to show Filipino warmth and hospitality and we hope that if there are groups or syndicates that are involved in this, they would put a stop to this,” Jasmin said.

“We are confident we will be able to arrest the situation in the airports not only in Manila but other airports as well,” she added. – Evelyn Macairan, Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy, Delon Porcalla, Christina Mendez, Ding Cervantes, Edith Regalado, Janvic Mateo, Eva Visperas, Louella Desiderio, Louise Maureen Simeon, Mayen Jaymalin, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

‘Tanim-bala’ caught on camera by Ces Dimalanta November 8, 2015 (updated) Share6 Tweet2 Share1 Email0 Share43 A video of what could be a tanim-bala incident caught in the act was revealed on November 8,2015 in a TV news program.


VIDEOGRAB

The video, which was shown on 24 Oras on GMA 7, was submitted to the LAWIN (Legal Advocates for Workers Interest) Law Office by Eloisa Zoleta – stepmother of the purported ‘tanim-bala’ victim Lane Michael White. The clip showed two airport security personnel opening and emptying the bag of the 20-year-old American traveler.

White was detained for six days after a .22-caliber bullet was seen in the outside pocket of his luggage on September 17, and is currently on temporary release after posting bail set at P40,000.

The airport personnel in the video were identified as Marvin Garcia and Maria Elma Cena.

In the video, Garcia and Cena can be seen emptying White’s luggage, which was then brought back to the x-ray scanner. Security then called the attention of the family, pointing the x-ray photo which showed the bullet.

White, who was traveling to Coron, Palawan with his stepmom, was stopped by airport security and brought to the Office of the Transport Security (OTS). The personnel allegedly asked for P30,000 from White, but he refused to pay up.

White is expected to use the video as evidence in their motion to dismiss the charge of illegal possession of ammunition filed against him.

LAWIN representative Atty. Ernesto Arellano told the Manila Bulletin in a phone interview that “probably, we can call for a press conference on November 11, after the hearing for the motion for judicial determination of probable cause.”

Arellano added that the complainant is set to file a case against the airport security personnel after the said hearing, but White’s family would like to go back to the United States first what became now as an extended stay in the Philippines, thanks to the ‘tanim-bala‘ incident.

Atty. Arellano said the charged American is a Theology graduate from Florida who was supposed to look for a new church site as part of their missionary outreach in the Philippines. The lawyer pointed out that White doesn’t have any experience in shooting, “more so, possess bullets or guns given the gun ban in the U.S.”

Click on the video to watch the GMA News’ 24 Oras report:

 
https://youtu.be/NTgLUKXWbSg

READ MORE: No end to ‘tanim-bala’


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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