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Bullets planted

But justice chief denies syndicate at airport

UNSCRUPULOUS airport personnel, and not a syndicate, were responsible for the “tanim-bala” extortion racket at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the National Bureau of Investigation said  Thursday.

Justice Undersecretary Emmanuel Caparas said the task force formed to investigate the racket that victimizes unsuspecting passengers by planting bullets in their luggage found the airport personnel to be acting on their own to extort money from their victims.

“Based on the investigation conducted, the task force concludes that there was indeed an instance of the  tanim-bala  scheme. This had been perpetrated by corrupt OTS [Office for Transportation Security] officers for the purpose of obtaining under duress financial consideration in lieu of the filing of criminal charges on the unsuspecting passengers,” Caparas said.

The scam is real. Justice Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa shows the results of the NBI investigation on the bullet-planting scam at the airports on Thursday. Danny Pata 
“However, the likelihood of an organized syndicate involving OTS, Avsegroup [Aviation Security Group] and MIAA [Manila International Airport Authority] officers existing and operating in Naia was not established,” the Justice official added.

Caparas said the task force took into consideration all the documents gathered, interviews with airport personnel and passenger-victims as well the analysis of past incidents in coming up with the conclusion.

Nonetheless, he said, the NBI would continue its investigation to learn more about the scheme and find out why it persists today.

“It would be easier for us to say this is over with this conclusion, with these findings...but the reality is these incidents still take place at the airport and for many reasons,” he said.

As a result of their findings, the NBI filed a criminal complaint before the Justice Department against six airport personnel believed to be involved in the extortion scheme.

Charged for violation of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act were Maria Elma Cens and Marvin Garcia, both OTS personnel.

Charged with robbery and extortion and violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act were Senior Police Officer (SPO) 2 Roland Clarin and P/C Insp. Adriano Junio, SPO4 Ramon Bernardo and SPO2 Romy Navarro.

The charges were filed based on the complaint of Eloisa Zoleta and her stepson Lane White who was victimized by the illegal scheme in September at the Naia.

The two accused the airport officers of trying to extort P30,000 from them in exchange for the dropping of the case for possession of a bullet against White, who was detained for six days.

They were on their way to Coron, Palawan province, to scout for land on which to build a church when the incident occurred.

Zoleta said a bullet was found after White’s bag passed through the X-ray machine several times.

The complainants refused to settle the case prompting the airport officers to file charges against them before the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City.

The RTC judge threw out the case against Lane  Thursday.

The Palace deferred comment on the initial NBI findings and said it would wait for the final report.

Earlier, President Aquino had played down the tanim-bala racket, saying it victimized only a tiny portion of the millions of passengers who pass through the airport.

The statement drew flak from overseas workers, who are often victims of the extortions scheme.

Senator Francis Escudero said the bullet-planting racket at the NAIA was another reason to remove Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

“I have long been calling to remove the DoTC secretary. The tanim-bala [scandal] should be added to the reasons why he should be fired from the DoTC,” he said.

Escudero, however, said he was satisfied with the charges filed against those who were allegedly involved in the Lane case, noting that roberry with extortion was a grave crime and carried a heavy penalty.

The tanim-bala cases at the airport were not part of a political scheme to discredit the administration, Escudero said.

“They refused to accept there was a problem. Now the NBI filed charges. I hope they will take quick actions to put a stop to this,” he said. With Sandy Araneta, Joel E. Zurbano and Macon Ramos-Araneta

Topics: Bullets planted

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