The Department of Justice has been asked to dismiss the criminal charges filed against the elderly couple implicated in the latest case of bullet planting or “tanim bala” scheme at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
In a six-page joint counter-affidavit submitted before the DoJ’s investigating prosecutor on Wednesday, Esteban and Salvacion Cortabista formally denied the charges for violation of Republic Act No. 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.
The Cortabistas also pressed for the indictment of three airport personnel who allegedly tried to extort money from them. They insisted on their claim that they were victims of tanim-bala scheme perpetrated by three airport personnel – x-ray screeners Ferdinand Morales and Fatti Dame Go from the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) and wheelchair attendant Niño Namba.
“After the bullet was found in our bag, I heard Ferdinand Morales say ‘mahina ang singkwenta mil dyan’ (P50,000 would be a small amount for that) in a manner that we could hear and so we will just be forced to settle with them,” Salvacion narrated in Filipino.
“At that point, I looked at Ferdinand Morales, held my red belt bag and told him ‘one hundred twenty pesos lang ang pera ko (I only have P120 with me),” she said.
The couple said that during the incident last April 19, they noticed Morales signaling to Go.
As for Namba, they said it was only him who held their bags going to the scanning section.
The Cortabistas insisted that the bullet found in their bag was planted, adding that they passed through the initial security checkpoint twice without the bullet detected by the x-ray machine at the airport.
“We did not carry any bullet going to the Naia Terminal 1 and we did not have any intention to bring one because we are aware of TV news reports about the tanim-bala controversy where innocent passengers are victimized,” they said.
“Neither of the two of us has been previously charged or involved in any illegal activity. We are law-abiding citizens. We don’t carry a gun that’s why it’s impossible for us to have bullets,” they said.
With these statements supported by an eyewitness, their niece Maria Fe Balagot, the couple asked the DOJ not only to dismiss the charges against them but also indict Morales, Go and Namba for robbery by extortion.
Public Attorneys’ Office chief Persida Rueda – Acosta, counsel of the couple, also asked the DOJ to transfer the case to the Pasay City prosecutor’s office and consolidate it with their counter-charges against the three airport personnel.
With the submission of the counter-affidavit, investigating Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva required the OTS to submit its reply to the denial of the respondents.