Sen. Grace Poe to MIAA Manager: Stop 'Tanim-bala' or resign

MANILA, Philippines - Independent presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe asked Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Jose Angel Honrado to put an end to the proliferation of "tanim-bala" at the country's airports within a week or resign from post.

TANIM-BALA EFFECT? Some Pinoys, foreigners sealed their baggage at NAIA
TANIM-BALA EFFECT? Some Pinoys, foreigners sealed their baggage at NAIA. Photo:

Reports of "planted bullets" have angered many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and netizens, calling it another scheme by some unscrupulous airport personnel to milk locals and foreign nationals passing through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

"The number of cases where passengers are being detained for allegedly concealing bullets in their bags have grown exponentially like there's a deliberate plan to victimize poor, unsuspecting passengers for extortion. This is unacceptable, and Mr. Honrado should be able to stop this within a week," Poe said.

Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, filed Senate Resolution 1636 to look into possible abuses of security personnel and failure of airport officials to stop these. Two other resolutions have been filed with the Senate to probe the alleged extortion racket.

The senator also urged the creation of a special task force of law enforcers to replace the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) personnel in the airport as a first step while additional cameras are being put in place and the investigation is ongoing.

OTS is under the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).

The latest victim of the supposed bullet-planting scheme was 56-year-old Gloria Ortinez, who has been an OFW for more than three decades. She was barred from returning to Hong Kong after being accused of carrying two carbine riffle bullets in her bag. Ortinez, who was in the country for a vacation, was arrested and detained.

"Bakit magbibitbit ng bala ang mga tulad ni Ginang Ortinez? Ilalagay ba niya sa alanganin ang kanyang trabaho at pamilya?" Poe asked. "Tila binibigyan nito ng ibang kahulugan ang 'Isang Bala Ka Lang.' Dati sa pelikula, ang ibig sabihin nito ay pantay-pantay tayong lahat. Pero ngayon, mukhang sinasabing isang bala lang ang tatapos sa pangarap ng ating mga OFW."

("Why would someone like Mrs. Ortinez carry a bullet? Would she knowingly risk her job and the welfare of her family? This gives the phrase "Isang Bala Ka Lang" a new meaning. In the movie, it was meant to illustrate that we are all equal. But now, it seems it takes only one bullet to end the dreams of our OFWs.")

Aside from Ortinez, a wheelchair-bound Filipino-American likewise almost missed her flight to California after two bullets were allegedly found in her suitcase. An American missionary and a Japanese national were also victimized by the alleged bullet-planting modus.

Some personnel of the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group (PNPAVSEGROUP) and DOTC's OTS have been pinpointed by victims, mostly departing passengers, to have planted bullets in their bags in exchange for sums of money to avoid missing their flights or being charged.

At least two screening officers under the DOTC'S OTS have been suspended pending investigation.

"Ilang taon pa lang ang nakalipas nang binansagan ang NAIA na worst airport. Nag-facelift na ang pamunuuan dito kaya bahagya tayong nakabangon, pero ang pisikal na anyo ay hindi mas matimbang kaysa sa tunay na kalagayan ng mapangapi na sistema. Ang mas nakakalungkot dito, ang madalas na biktima ay ang mga OFW natin," Poe lamented.

("Only a few years ago, NAIA was dubbed the worst airport. The leadership did a facelift, so we were able to partially improve our image, but physical form is outweighed by the real state of an oppressive system. Worse, its frequent victims are our own OFWs.")

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