MANILA, Philippines - Security personnel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) lament that they have been shamed and demonized because of the laglag-bala or bullet planting scam at the airport.
“We are demoralized, humiliated and even threatened with a beating if we are seen in public,” one of them said. “In the eyes of the public, we are so bad, and no one is able to stand for us.”
Melinda Lansangan and Seferino de Ocampo of the Office of Transportation Security (OTS) said their assignment at the NAIA terminals had demonized them”
“We are threatened through Facebook by its subscribers that we will be beaten if they saw us in their places. In one instance, a group of four in uniform came down from a jeepney near Villamor Airbase when they heard from tricycle drivers shouting ‘andyan na ang mga tanim-bala’ (there goes the bullet-planting people),” referring to the scheme of inserting a bullet in the baggage of an unsuspecting passenger before a shakedown.
“We are persecuted by the public without being proven guilty, the cases thrown at us are still being investigated,” Lansangan said.
She said her relatives abroad are also asking if she was indeed involved in the laglag-bala scheme.
“We dedicated ourselves to protect the airport, especially passengers, from terrorist threat 24/7 as we focus on avoiding or preventing explosives from entering the airport brought by passengers or people with criminal minds,” Lansangan said.
“We even neglected our children, we have no time for them due to our dedication for work. It’s what we get for working so hard,” she added.
De Ocampo, for his part, said they are hurt by the sight of passengers and tourists busy wrapping their luggage and bags with plastic sheets and packing tape.
“As if they are protecting their luggage from us,” he said.
De Ocampo said they quickly change into civilian clothes when off duty to avoid being discriminated against.
He said the controversy has forced them to adopt a “no touch policy” where they refrain from physically handling any bags or luggage of passengers at the airport to avoid suspicion.
According to De Ocampo, some passengers have even refused to hire porters at the NAIA to carry their luggage as a precaution.