Extortion plot at Naia denounced
The House Independent Bloc on Wednesday expressed concern over the apparent breakdown in the security management at Ninoy Aquino International Airport following the “laglag bala” or bullet-planting extortion scheme of which some airport personnel were accused.
The Bloc’s leader, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, urged Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya Jr. “to crack the whip” and address the issue at the soonest possible time as he lamented the series of complaints, including a congressman who was victimized by alleged “bullet planting at the airport are causing embarrassment and serious threat to the country’s tourism.
Romualdez said the Office for Transportation Security of the DoTC should conduct a credible probe to address the problem which also victimized Tarlac Rep. Noel Villanueva last August 2014.
“The DoTC secretary [Abaya]must investigate the OTS and stop this apparent entrapment and extortion practice that preys on unwitting travelers like tourists and even public officer like Congressman Villanueva,” Romualdez said.
The Leyte lawmaker made the statement after Villanueva disclosed during Tuesday’s investigation of the House committee on transportation that he and his lady companion were victimized on two separate incidents sometime last year.
Romualdez said the government must be able to address efficiently the issue of “mismanagement” on the part of NAIA, which is under the Transportation Department, in the wake of the bullet-planting incident at the airport.
Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting also echoed Romualdez’s concern. “This is a serious issue that should have been properly attended to,” he said.
At the congressional hearing, Villanueva said he was surprised that two bullets were seen in the “outside pocket” of his luggage upon inspection when he left sometime in August last year to attend the 61st Philippine Sugar Technologies convention in Cebu City.
But Villanueva said he was allowed to leave the Terminal IV of NAIA after showing his permit to carry firearms. Villanueva said he did not introduce himself as congressman then.
He added that one of his friends in their flight to Cebu, board member Tootsie Cruz of Tarlac was also victimized by the alleged scheme that happened August 2015 after bullets were also found in the outside pocket of her luggage.
OTS Administrator Roland Recomono, for his part, vowed that the OTS would impose penalty on erring personnel allegedly involved in the nefarious activity.
“The OTS will not tolerate any act that will cause inconvenience to the public,” he said.
At least two incidents of the “laglag-bala” modus at the NAIA have been reported: the latest of which happened to first-time tourist Mark White who was detained for five days by airport police for allegedly concealing a bullet in his checked-in baggage, which was discovered at the X-ray scanner area of NAIA Terminal IV.
The 20-year-old White denied knowledge of how the .22 caliber bullet got inside his luggage. White alleged that a male security personnel told him that his problem will be settled for P30,000.
Two bullets were also mysteriously found at the luggage of a wheelchair-bound balikbayan who reportedly had to pay P500 to the airport security personnel to be allowed to leave the country.