MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has tasked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the increasing laglag-bala (bullet planting) incidents at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Even as the government ordered a probe, security personnel of the United Nations were warned against falling victim to the scheme.
The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) responsible for the security of UN staff sent an internal memo on Tuesday advising its personnel to lock their bags and even wrap them in plastic if passing through NAIA.
“Officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport are allegedly slipping bullets into passengers’ bags and then trying to extort money from them when bullets are ‘found’ by security,” the UNDSS memo said.
The memo also said “surveillance at the airport has been stepped up since the complaints began and an investigation has been launched into the personnel accused of involvement.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it took note of the UN advisory as it gave assurance authorities are now investigating the incidents.
“We note the report on UN advisory. We likewise note that relevant authorities in the Philippines are looking into this laglag-bala matter,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.
Justice Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa ordered the NBI to form a task force under Department Order No. 887 “to probe all incidents of the alleged laglag-bala scam at the NAIA and to similarly undertake a case build-up on the possible criminal and/or administrative liabilities of all individuals and agencies involved, whether public or private.”
NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division head agent Manuel Antonio Eduarte was named head of the team, with supervising agents Manuel Fayre Jr. and Dennis Asistio; and special investigators Joselito Guillen, Aubren Cosidon, Rodelio Velez and Marvin Villena as members of “Task Force Talaba (tanim/laglag-bala).”
While the NBI probe will be independent of investigations by other agencies, TF Talaba was ordered to coordinate with all relevant agencies to review and evaluate documents and materials related to the scam.
The task force would also interview individuals involved, including concerned government officials who are directly and indirectly involved in the scam and gather documents, recording and other data necessary to enable the team to prepare its evaluation.
Caguioa told the NBI team to “act with dispatch” and submit within 15 days its report and recommendations to his office.
DOJ spokesman Emmanuel Caparas said Caguioa decided to order the probe, noting the increasing number of cases of alleged extortion incidents at the NAIA involving passengers supposedly caught with bullets in their luggage.
Last Tuesday, Maria Paz Trias went to the NBI to detail her experience as a victim of the scam last week while on her way to Singapore to accompany her grandmother for a medical checkup.
The scheme involves inserting a bullet in the luggage of an unsuspecting passenger before a shakedown.
The bullet planting incidents were said to be part of an extortion scheme of some airport personnel that has victimized several Filipino migrant workers and tourists at an alarming frequency.
Eduarte, for his part, urged the victims to file their complaints directly before the NBI.
“We are encouraging the victims to come forward and go to the NBI office to file their complaints because we are now in the process of gathering data and we need to get information from those who have cases in court and even those who agreed to a settlement,” Eduarte said.
Malacañang, on the other hand, assured the public that the incidents are being investigated, though it lamented the UN advisory was “unfortunate.”
“That’s an unfortunate development and we hope that, moving forward with the new measures that will be implemented, there will be no need for such advisories in the future,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
Valte assured the public President Aquino has been apprised of the figures regarding the arrests or charges filed against those who were found carrying live ammunition in the airport.
“The President has seen the data because he was specifically after how many cases, how many live bullets out of those cases, what are the geographical breakdown of all of that because you know how the President thinks on that level,” she said.
Source: Nov 5 Philstar