We should no longer feel offended when Da Vinci Code and Inferno author Dan Brown aptly described Manila as the gates of hell. For a departing overseas Filipino worker it was unimagined nightmare when she was arrested for “possession” of a bullet in her hand-carried bag. What possessed her to have a bullet in her bag is hard to explain. But the Ninoy Aquino International Airport has taken its notoriety to another level. From being the world’s worst airport, it has now become the most dangerous to pass through whether you’re entering or exiting.
An American missionary departing at the Naia was also “found” with a bullet in his luggage. In another incident smelling of a scam, a Japanese tourist Kazunobu Sakamoto, was also detained for possessing a bullet in his bag. Thea Austria de Guzman, a balikbayan resident of Los Angeles, was stopped by airport security allegedly for having a bullet in her suitcase and only allowed to leave after coughing up P500.
Passenger baggage is pilfered; valuable items like wallets, including passports are stolen as they pass through the x-ray scanning machines. The “laglag or tanim bala” modus operandi has actually been going on since 2012. A bullet is dropped or planted inside your bag making you subject to arrest. Unless of course, you pay up to spare yourself the grief of missing your flight and landing in jail.
This was what happened recently to Gloria Ortinez, a Hong Kong domestic helper who was held at the Naia after being found with a bullet in her hand-carried bag. She spent two days in detention before being set free on bail after the fiscal doubted the story of the airport Transport Security Group which submitted a different bullet from the one “found” on her. This isn’t the first time security personnel pulled this “tanim bala” caper on departing passengers. There are probably other OFWs who kept quiet after forking over money to avoid missing their flight and losing their jobs.
This is a most unconscionable and despicable crime being committed against our hard-working OFWs. They suffer the loneliness of working abroad and even braving real bullets when caught in a civil war. But they are victimized at home by their own countrymen, targeted by the lowest kind of denizens who are given a badge, a uniform and authority for extortion.
Why would anyone have a bullet in a hand-carried bag? Why not diamonds, other precious gems, if you’re a smuggler? Or a gun or a knife if someone plans to hijack a plane? It defies logic considering that a bullet will never pass through the metal detector, aside from being useless without a gun.
To stop this scam, Manila International Airport Authority manager Jose Honrado should impose a body search of security personnel before they are posted to their assigned places. This is to make sure they don’t have any bullet in their pocket to plant on unsuspecting passengers.
A tearful Gloria Ortinez said all she has known her whole life was work as a domestic helper to provide for her family. Because she won’t give bribe money to the airport police, she failed to make her flight to Hong Kong. She could now lose her job for not being able to report for work after a brief vacation to her hometown.
Foreign envoys meddling?
A group of foreign ambassadors and heads of missions in Manila came under fire from the Philippine Ambassadors Foundation Inc. for meddling in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. PAFI said that the foreign envoys group calling itself International Supporters for Peace in the Philippines broke time-honored diplomatic tradition of non-interference in the domestic affairs of the host country.
By signing and issuing a joint statement on Oct. 15 to local and foreign media, “calling on all concerned to remain engaged in the peace process to give life to the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro and to the long term political, economic and social pillar that will bring peace dividend in the country as a whole,” the foreign envoys made a public judgmental call on a process that is still being deliberated by Philippine lawmakers, said PAFI. If I may add, the foreign envoys also made it appear that the Philippine government and its legislative branch had already disengaged from finding a just and enduring solution to the problem in Mindanao.
PAFI, which is headed by former Ambassador Lauro Baja, said that while it appreciates the foreign envoys’ concern, they cannot meddle in the domestic and legislative process the proposed Bangsamoro law is undergoing. The Senate’s local government committee wants to ensure that all the stakeholders in the proposed Bangsamoro region, including the indigenous people, are included.
This matter is sub judice, having been elevated to the Supreme Court even as Congress is still reviewing and ridding the BBL of its constitutional infirmities which the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the government peace panel apparently failed to consider and which drew sharp criticism from the citizenry and Congress.