Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero wants 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 unsuspecting 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 here, 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 Escudero, he has filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 1641 to seek an inquiry into the alleged extortion scheme using the “tanim-bala” modus to put a stop to the scam that is threatening to hurt the Philippine economy.
“Airports are our 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 pointed out.
Tourism alone contributed P983 billion to the economy in 2014, based on the share of tourism direct gross value added (TDVGA). Remittances from OFWs reached P382 billion in first four months of this year.
“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 (DOTC).
“Hindi maiaalis sa ating mga kababayan na mag-isip na baka pagtakpan lamang ng mga taga-MIAA ang kanilang mga kabaro sa OTS. Kaya higit na makakabuti kung hayaan na lamang ang NBI na mag-imbestiga upang maiwasan ang pagdududa sa proseso ng imbestigasyon,” Escudero said.
“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,” he said.
Escudero said 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.
“Look at the case of OTS personnel. Most, if not all of them, are contractual but they play an important function in transportation security—from security screening of passengers and baggage to cargoes. They have to be permanent in their duties to ensure quality and consistency of engagement in the performance of their duties. Otherwise, we will keep on training and losing and training people anew,” Escudero said./chizescudero.com; FB: senchizescudero; Twitter: @saychiz @chiznewsalert