Davao City Representative Karlo Alexei Nograles is calling for a complete overhaul of officials and personnel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) over allegations that some of them are involved in a “bullet-planting” scam to extort money from tourists and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Nograles, the vice president for internal affairs of the National Unity Party (NUP), said the top-to-bottom revamp was necessary to stop making the NAIA, the country’s international gateway, “a source of disgrace and national embarrassment.”
The “bullet-planting” scheme has caught the attention of international news outlets such as Time and BBC.
Last Friday, October 30, a Manila-bound passenger, 60-year old Augusto Dagan, was arrested inside the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao after two live bullets were found in his baggage. He has denied that the bullets were his.
Several similar cases were reported in NAIA terminals over the last few weeks involving OFWs and foreign tourists.
Nograles said the first on the chopping block should be Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Jose Angel Honrado. “He has contributed nothing but shame and disgrace to the government,” Nograles said.
“Instead of exerting effort to get into the bottom of these rising complaints of evidence planting at the NAIA, administrator Honrado quickly dismissed these allegations as false and untruthful,” he added.
The bullet-planting scheme or “laglag-bala” involves furtively inserting bullets in the baggage of unsuspecting airline passengers. When the passenger is arrested, crooked NAIA personnel ask him or her to shell out money in exchange for their freedom.
One of them, 56-year old OFW Gloria Ortinez was detained for more than two days and prevented from leaving for Hong Kong after she was arrested for allegedly carrying a bullet inside her hand carry luggage. She has vehemently denied the allegation that the carbine rifle bullet found in her luggage was hers.
The Pasay City Prosecutor’s Office has ordered Ortinez’s release after determining that the bullet presented as evidence in her case was different from the one found in her possession.
“NAIA has become the biggest source of embarrassment for this administration, not only here in the Philippines but in the entire world," said Nograles, chairman of the House of Representatives labor committee. "A top-to-bottom revamp is now necessary even just to prove that the government is taking this issue very seriously."
Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said additional CCTV cameras will be installed at the NAIA screening stations starting Monday, November 2, and other security measures would be put in place to prevent, and expose the groups behind, the bullet-planting scheme.