ESCUDERO SUGGESTS NBI LEADS PROBE ON‘TANIM-BALA’ SCAM
Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero suggests the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to step into the probe on the alleged “tanim-bala (bullet-planting)” scam at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Escudero said this is to avoid doubts on the result of the investigation being done by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) amid public outrage on the racket of planting a live bullet in the luggage of passengers, mostly OFWs and foreign nationals, so unscrupulous airport personnel can attempt to extort money from them.
“It is not only the integrity of the MIAA that is at stake, but the government as a whole. By having the NBI as a third party investigator, we can show the public that the government is serious in getting rid of dishonorable airport officials and personnel,” Escudero said.
According to him, he has filed Senate Resolution No. 1641 to inquire into the alleged extortion scheme using the “tanim-bala” modus to put a stop to the scam that is hurting the Philippine economy.
“Airports are doors to business activities and further development. If fear is what our airports open to travellers, we are assured of great economic sufferings. Who will come here to conduct business when the moment they step in, threats of abuse or arbitrariness surround them?” Escudero asked.
Tourism contributed P983 billion to the economy in 2014, based on the share of tourism direct gross value added. Remittances from OFWs reached P382 billion in the first four months of 2015.
“We expect a deluge of balikbayans soon. Are we going to put all of them through this Russian roulette of ‘laglag-bala’ in NAIA?” Escudero asked.
The MIAA leadership earlier said that some 40 personnel from the Office for Transportation Security (OTS), who are manning the X-ray scanning machines at the country’s premier airport, were under investigation.
Escudero, however, pointed out that suspicions of possible whitewash may arise since MIAA and OTS are both under the Department of Transportation and Communications.
“We need tangible and effective measures in place. Not only do we have to abate such modus operandi but we also need to institutionalize a comprehensive and accountable security policy in all airports,” said Escudero.
“Part of a comprehensive security policy is to engage permanent staff dedicated to handling security policies and procedures to ensure that state and travelers’ rights and prerogatives are well protected,” added Escudero
“Most, if not all of OTS personel, are contractual but they play an important function in transportation security. They must be permanent in their duties to ensure quality and consistency of engagement in the performance of their duties. Otherwise, we will keep on losing and training people anew,” Escudero pointed out.
“TANIM BALA” CASES
On the other hand, Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo this week expressed concern that the “tanim bala” cases at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport will be swept and buried under the APEC Summit rug.
“While we know that government’s and media’s attention are now focused on keeping the APEC Leaders and delegates safe and comfortable, we hope the probe ordered by the President is done and the culprits, if any, held accountable,” he said.
Romulo pointed out that those who may have been wrongfully accused should be immediately cleared, citing the admission of DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya that there were “certain lapses” in the filing of the cases against “tanim bala” suspects.
Romulo cited the case Gloria Ortinez, an OFW who lost her job last Oct. 30 but regained it after an emotional meeting with her employer in Hongkong. Abaya said he believed Ortinez was innocent and apologized to her during a Senate hearing last week. Charges against her were dismissed for lack of probable
cause after airport police presented to the fiscal a different bullet found allegedly in her bag.
At the same time, Romulo lauded the deployment of prosecutors by the Department of Justice at the airports, saying that this would ensure immediate action and assure protection of travelers and security people in “tanim bala” incidents.
The NBI task force TaLaBa (Tanim/Laglag Bala) was expected to submit its report to the DOJ on Monday instead of the original deadline of Nov. 18.
The DOTC, tasked by President Aquino to conduct a probe, has yet to submit its findings.
“There has to be closure soon. We don’t want the anxiety and uncertainty on the part of our travelers to continue after the APEC Summit ends,” Romulo said. “We expect a deluge when the Leaders leave on Friday.”/MP