Sen. Francis “Chiz” E’scudero urged authorities to focus on the root of the problem in the “tanim-bala” scam prevalent in Philippine airports today, instead of resorting to band-aid solutions that do not address the issue of extortion.
“Yung naglalagay, naglalaglag at nagtatanim ng bala ang problema, hindi yung bala. Kaya kung maghahanap tayo ng solusyon, huwag nating pagtuunan ng pansin yung bala, kundi yung taong nagtatanim ng bala. Paano ba natin sila mapapatigil at paano natin maibabalik ang seguridad sa ating mga paliparan?” he said.
Escudero said proposals in Congress to decriminalize the possession of not more than three bullets should be carefully studied as merely decriminalizing the possession of a few bullets does not to fix the real problem, which is the existence of extortion syndicates in airports.
“Ang tanong ko: saan nanggaling yung tatlo? Bakit hindi dalawa, bakit hindi lima? Kasi sa totoo lang, hindi naman yung bala yung problema eh, yung tao yung problema—yung mga taong nambibiktima ng mga bumibiyahe para kumita sila ng pera,” said Escudero, who is leading all recent voter preference surveys for vice president in the 2016 elections.
“Hindi natin masusugpo ang problema kung hindi natin tutukuying mabuti ang puno’t dulo nito,” he said.
The senator also pointed out that those in possession of a few bullets who are allowed to leave the country might end up in bigger trouble when they are apprehended in airports abroad, especially in countries with stiffer penalties for possession of ammunition.
Police, airport and transportation officials have all denied the existence of syndicates that plant bullets in passengers’ luggage so they could extort money from them, but the National Bureau of Investigation, which created a special task force to investigate the “tanim-bala” incidents in airports, confirmed the existence of an extortion syndicate that preys mainly on the elderly and overseas Filipino workers.
There have been 1,394 ammunition-related incidents reported in the country’s airports from January to October this year, according to the Department of Transportation and Communication. The DOTC’s Office of Transport Security is in charge of airport screenings and inspection.
“Gaya ng marami, ako ay nagngingitngit sa mga insidente ng tanim-bala. Ngunit naiisip ko rin, paano kung i-decriminalize natin ang pagdadala ng isa, dalawa o tatlong bala, ngunit hindi naman mawawala ang mga sindikato sa airports? Napakadali pa ring mag-laglag ng tatlong bala sa bulsa ng mga bagahe,” Escudero said.
He said going after the scammers and imposing stiffer penalties on those who would be caught inserting bullets, illegal drugs and other prohibited items in passengers’ luggage would be more effective in stopping syndicates operating inside airports.
“We have to identify the real and grave threat, and to find ways to eliminate them,” he said./ chizescudero.com; FB: senchizescudero; Twitter: @saychiz @chiznewsalert