(UPDATE) Poe also calls for probe into #TanimBala; more than 22k sign #LaglagBala petition


Senator Grace Poe has joined fellow 2016 presidential aspirant, Sen. Miriam Santiago, in seeking a legislative probe into the rash of #TanimBala cases at Philippine international airports.
In a press release, Poe also sent a message to Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Jose Angel Honrado, “to put an end to the proliferation of ‘tanim-bala’ at the country’s airports within a week or quit.”

Poe gave the statement as members of the House of Representatives pushed for the resignation of Honrado, who is a relative of President Benigno Aquino and a confidante from his younger days.

Reports of “planted bullets” have angered many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and netizens, who see the cases as schemes by some unscrupulous airport personnel to milk locals and foreign nationals passing through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Vacuum-packed luggage of OFWs at the Dubai International Airport Terminal 1. Photo by Peachy Rallonza-Bretana
Vacuum-packed luggage of OFWs at the Dubai International Airport Terminal 1. Photo by Peachy Rallonza-Bretana

As Filipino netizens posted photos of travellers wrapping their luggage in layers of plastic, all in the hope of not falling prey to #TanimBala, the petition calling for a probe into the alleged scandal continued to amass signers, hitting the 22,000 mark mid-afternoon.

Nervous OFWs are taking extra efforts -- and paying additional costs -- to ensure they do not fall victim to #TanimBala. Photo by Peachy Rallonza Bretana, taken at the Dubai Int'l Airport
Nervous OFWs are taking extra efforts — and paying additional costs — to ensure they do not fall victim to #TanimBala. Photo by Peachy Rallonza Bretana, taken at the Dubai Int’l Airport

READ: OFW BEHIND PETITION TO PROBE ‘LAGLAG BALA’ SAYS SCAM REAPS COLLECTIVE SHAME FOR PH 

Poe’s press release said:

“The number of cases where passengers are being detained for allegedly concealing bullets in their bags have grown exponentially like there’s a deliberate plan to victimize poor, unsuspecting passengers for extortion.  This is unacceptable, and Mr. Honrado should be able to stop this within a week,” Poe said.

Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, filed Senate Resolution 1636 to look into possible abuses of security personnel and failure of airport officials to stop these. Two other resolutions have been filed with the Senate to probe the alleged extortion racket.

The senator also urged the creation of a special task force of law enforcers to replace the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) personnel in the airport as a first step while additional cameras are being put in place and the investigation is ongoing.”

Ednalyn with her children (in stripes and blue shirt) and their cousins). Photo courtesy of Ednalyn
Ednalyn Purugganan, who started the change.org/laglagbala petition with her children (in stripes and blue shirt) and their cousins). Photo courtesy of Ednalyn

The President, meanwhile, summoned to separate meetings officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the agency that supervises the X-ray equipment handlers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) , as well as the Philippine National Police aviation command.

Adding fuel to the anger was the disclosure by a choir musical director that a teenaged choir member had also missed their flight  because of a #TanimBala incident. The intriguing parts in the story involve:

One policeman allegedly replacing the live bullet found in the girl’s bag with a smaller, empty one; and cops’ disclosure of a feud with the airport security force.

Vargas said that amid the commotion, police told Rachel that even if they release her, she would not be allowed to board the flight because the police are “not in good terms” with the NAIA’s security guards.

“Nagkaroon ng komosyon doon e, tumakbo iyung ilang singers ko. Nalaman na nung roving security guard nung airport doon pagpasok sa boarding gate, iyung mga nangyari doon sa bullet. Sabi nung pulis, kahit i-release kita ngayon, hindi ka pa rin papasukin doon. Parang ang dating sa usapan nila, they are not in good terms with the security guards. ‘Iyang mga yan, sipsip iyan,'” Vargas said.

Upon Rachel’s release, police also allegedly remarked that the security guards should be “slapped” with the incident.

“‘I-release na iyan, isampal na iyan sa mukha ng mga security guard.’ Sabi ng pulis,” Vargas said.

He said the SWAT member stayed with Rachel until her mom arrived. He said Rachel had to book another flight with her own money to follow her choir to South Korea.

Strange reports kept social media users in a tizzy. A 65-year old woman bound for Singapore to attend a grandchild’s soccer tournament was also arrested and slapped with criminal complaint — even though she had padlocked her bag, wrapped the openings with plastic and even had a pocket sewn shot. A wheelchair-bound Filipino-American likewise almost missed her flight to California after two bullets were allegedly found in her suitcase. An American missionary is seeking release on a similar incident. 

The cases have aroused a complex mix of feelings among Filipinos, anger and shame the strongest.

Even children have taken notice of the scandal. Mary Jane Reyes posted on Facebook a conversation with her child, who suggested taking the cases to the United Nations.

HANNAH:
Oh. But are they doing something naman? Super dami na kasi ng victims. I heard even this teenager got victimized and was almost unable to join a prestigious competition abroad. Then some OFWs and now even a 65-year old grandma. What’s the government doing?

ME:
Well, they said they have installed or will install a help desk at NAIA and they intend to add more CCTV.

HANNAH:
That’s all?

With so much disappointment on her face and after few minutes of silence, she exclaimed:

“Mommy, since there was a Japanese citizen & also an American citizen who got apprehended & jailed recently because of alleged possession of 1-2 bullet/s and were likely also victims of this tanim-bala, and since it seems to me our government is not doing enough or is not really capable of putting an end to this menace, is it possible for you to please contact UN (United Nations) now and ask them to please intervene already?”

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