As most Filipinos know by now, the news of the laglag bala or bullet planting scam at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has caught the attention of the international community and has tainted the already fragile reputation of the Philippines as a tourist haven. Popular Fox News Channel anchor Greta Van Susteren has featured a segment of the scam in her show while feeling sorry for the Filipino community for having to expose such a terrible thing with her audience.
Before she started her segment, Van Susteren assumed she was going to receive a barrage of hate comments from the Filipino community afterwards but the comment section on the Fox News site was filled with much appreciation from Filipinos who thought it was good of her to highlight the ineptness of the Philippine government in catching the criminal syndicates operating the scam.
Yes, exposing the gross incompetence of the Philippine government under the leadership of President Benigno Simeon Aquino to the outside world is the next logical step because he and those protecting him are not moved by outrage from the Filipino public anymore. BS Aquino and his cabinet members have become so thick-faced, or what is referred to in Filipino as makakapal na ang mukha, that perhaps outrage from the members of the international community might, just might, move them to develop a conscience or at least shape up even just for appearance’s sake. Indeed, there are times when you need to embarrass the public servants to make them do their jobs.
The Japanese also created a demonstration video warning their own people who are planning on travelling to the Philippines by showing how security officers in Manila’s international airport supposedly plant the bullet inside an unsuspecting passenger’s luggage while it goes through the security screen. The video is complete with a cardboard cutout image of a bullet with the camera zooming in on it. The Japanese presenters looked very serious during the demonstration. It is interesting to note how Japanese society takes these matters seriously and how they take precautions to protect themselves against such criminal activities. They do not take chances.
One cannot help but compare the Japanese people’s reaction with that of some Filipinos like presidential candidate Mar Roxas who initially denied bullet planting was the work of a criminal syndicate operating at the NAIA. At some point Roxas even parroted rabid Aquino supporter Cynthia Patag and claimed that the issue could be a simple demolition job to discredit the BS Aquino government. Some people have noted that Roxas proved that he is not a problem solver. His statement revealed that he is just like BS Aquino – a blamer. Instead of acknowledging that there is a problem at NAIA, he denies it and puts the blame on an imagined “enemy”. The behavior he exhibited in recent days is an indication of the behavior he will apply if he ever wins the Presidency – arrogant and rude. It will be even worse because he seems like a guy who will let his position get to his head.
The problem with both Roxas and his supporters is they spoke too soon even before a formal investigation was conducted. They could have waited for what the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had to say about it. As it turns out, the bureau confirmed that there is a criminal syndicate operating at NAIA:
An extortion syndicate preying mainly on the elderly and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and involving personnel from various state agencies, not only plants bullets in bags of airline passengers but also harasses them by questioning their travel papers, the Inquirer has learned.
Initial findings by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation reveal that some porters identify potential victims of the “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) scam and accomplices in the security and immigration services take over from them inside the four terminals of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).
I don’t even know why Roxas keeps releasing statements about current issues as if he is already the President of the Philippines or is still part of BS Aquino’s cabinet. He is just turning voters off by being such a motor mouth. His political rivals do not need to mount a demolition job when he already does it to himself. Some people have also noted that it seems like BS Aquino is letting Roxas do the talking for him in the twilight of the former’s Presidency. It’s like Roxas is already assuming the position.
Speaking of BS Aquino, if he was really serious about solving the bullet planting scam, he needs to act soon lest voters turn against the Liberal Party in droves. The following steps need to be taken to stop the criminal syndicates on their tracks:
1. Fire and replace the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Jose Angel Honrado.
Honrado is obviously no angel. If he had even an ounce of decency, he would have resigned immediately. But no, he was one of the people who initially denied there was a problem. He had been sleeping on the job. He seems surprised along with everybody else that there is a criminal syndicate operating at the NAIA. That goes to show he is ineffective as the head of MIAA.
One just has to ask, what the heck is BS Aquino waiting for and why is he so reluctant to fire his cousin Honrado? Yes, blood is thicker than water, but the country’s interests should come before personal interests. Honrado hasn’t made a difference in the operation at the airport even after years in his post. The scam has been going on for years but he wasn’t aware of it and, worse, he is still in denial about it. He needs to go.
The firing of Honrado will prove to the public that BS Aquino means business. This can bring back the public’s confidence in airport security personnel.
2. Force all airport personnel to police one another by threatening them with loss of their jobs.
Did you ever have a teacher who threatened the whole class will be suspended or given failing marks if no one admitted to being the culprit of a bad deed? The same thing should be done with NAIA personnel. The fastest way to solve the mystery of who is behind the criminal syndicate is to threaten the replacement of NAIA security personnel unless they come forward with what they know. It is time the innocent workers stop turning a blind eye to those who do the wrong thing.
This bullet-planting racket along with other rackets at NAIA thrives because there is no culture that encourages whistle-blowers to expose the culprits. People who want to do the right thing are probably scared of being branded as kill-joys or walang pakisama or feel like they have no one to turn to. Again, this goes back to item number one where the head of the airport authority is perceived as untrustworthy or not someone who will be on the side of those who speak out against criminal acitivities.
3. MIAA should encourage victims of scams to come forward and file complaints.
In light of the revelation that there is a criminal syndicate operating at the international airport, the airport authority should mobilize their help-desk and make themselves more visible. They have to show that they are there for the victims and facilitate in helping out explaining their rights and the procedures they have to go through in case they are found to be carrying illegal items in their bags. There is nothing worse than being accused of doing something you haven’t done and not knowing your rights as an individual. Criminals take advantage of ignorant passengers who would rather pay than go through the ordeal of legal proceedings.
If the Philippine government is serious about fixing the country’s image with the local and international community, they should be willing to invest in personnel who are professional and can be relied on to ease the burden of weary passengers who just want to get on their flights.
Finally, as a lot of people have pointed out, unless it is an illegal drug, small items that airport security personnel find and consider to be contraband should simply be thrown in the bin. After all, this is what most airport security personnel in a lot of countries do when they catch Filipinos bringing stuff not allowed like pulburon and other foodstuffs and trinkets into the country.
A little common sense can solve this bullet-planting fiasco currently gripping the Philippines. It just takes resolve and commitment.
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