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Friday, June 14, 2024

The truth about ‘tanim-bala’

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The truth about “tanim-bala” is that we do not know the truth about it. 

All we know is that it is happening, causing serious pain and injury to individuals and families, and harming our country severely.

We must be collectively upset and angered about “tanim-bala.” It is extremely unfair, what has happened to several of our OFW brothers and sisters. What a few foreign visitors have experienced is also awful. The international media coverage has been horrendous. It is a big black eye to our country’s image even as we prepare for the biggest international conference we are hosting in more than 20 years. 

“Tanim-bala” and the ongoing lumad protests being carried out by the Manilakbayan are clouds forming around the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. They will surely become storms if the government does not act on them decisively.

On “tanim-bala,” it is not helping that supporters of the Aquino administration are accusing unnamed people for carrying out what the supporters have described as a project to shame the government. This newspaper reports that Leah Navarro, known backer of President Aquino, has posted in her Facebook account: “Whoever is behind this ‘tanim-bala’ project: remember, you don’t just shame the admin, you shame all Filipinos, including yourselves.” 

The same report quotes another Aquino supporter, Cynthia Patag, as posting: “Can’t you tell? Dagdag-bala is a demolition job by THE MALEVOLENT MINIONS ordered by their demonyo leaders to discredit the Aquino administration, ultimately the LP’s presidential candidate Mar Roxas.” In the same vein, Rock Drilon is also reported as saying that “Laglag-bala is a dirty op and politically motivated to embarrass the government and the ruling party/candidates.”

Atty. Jong de Guzman, brother of a woman who was a victim to the scam, refutes these accusations. In his Facebook post, which has become viral, he answered Ms. Patag: “I take exception to this statement implying that my sister, a victim of this so-called ‘laglag bala’ scheme [to me it’s plain robbery-extortion], is a mere pawn to discredit this administration. Big accusation. Where’s your evidence? You do not know what she went through during and after that incident—to be threatened with imprisonment or to lose everything she worked for just to get the green card. How dare you! You do not know her. I do. So who’s the minion now?”

De Guzman also refuted Navarro’s claim of an anti-administration project: “All I know is that there are crimes going on at the airport and not much has been done to curb [them]. There need not be a political angle to it. You’re giving too much credit to your opponents. Stop finger-pointing.”

It did not also help that the administration, through Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. at first played down the incident, claiming that only a few people were affected and that anyway there were help desks in the airport. That statement earned him a “g*go” retort from no less than former Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary and senatorial candidate Rafael Alunan.

If this is an anti-administration conspiracy conceived and carried out by the political opposition, it definitely is very effective. The black ops strategists behind them are just as brilliant and as nefarious as those who spread falsehoods about the citizenship of Grace Poe and who did not care at all to attack her family, including her minor children. Thankfully, except for a few die-hards, the people have not fallen for that scam. All you have to do, as Senator Poe has done, is tell the truth to defeat falsehood

On “tanim-bala,” the truth shall also set us free. Conspiracy or not, it can easily be solved through drastic measures, in-depth investigation and plain common sense. 

A friend suggests four scenarios that the government should look at in seeking the truth behind this scandal.

First, one can imagine reasons why OFWs and foreign visitors are putting bullets in their luggage, e.g., they belong to a cult that uses bullets for amulets or there is a spike in the price of smuggled bullets. This scenario is so absurd, even hilarious if not for its seriousness, to be worth considering.

Second, this has actually been happening for a long time and it is only now that our aviation security has been able to detect them. This is also laughable.

Third, there is in fact a conspiracy against the administration.   This is easily detected by changing the airport security personnel and setting up of additional surveillance measures. If the possibility of the bullets being planted by airport security is already excluded because of the security changes, and yet bullets continue to appear in baggage scans, then investigators should start looking at the possibility of bullets being planted even before the passenger enters the airport. Was it planted in Makati? Perhaps in Laoag? Or maybe in San Juan? But in that case, the passenger has to be complicit, right? So are we to believe now that those innocent OFWs, some of whom have worked for decades abroad, are actually part of the scam? 

Why don’t we start with what is in fact the most obvious scenario—that there is an airport syndicate making money out of this and that it has been going on for a long time? It’s scary to think about it but such a syndicate would require many tentacles in the airport, the police, and even the prosecution service.

I will not necessarily blame the Aquino administration for the origins of this scheme as it could have antedated the time in office of President Aquino. But like the PDAF scam, which started before 2010, the fact that it went on for years and might be going on up to now is an indictment that corruption continues to rear its ugly head today. 

Since this is the most likely scenario, the solution becomes readily apparent, like what Malacañang did with Edsa traffic, i.e., replace MMDA with HPG. In this case, it should just replace airport security with whatever police or military unit out there that is capable of doing the job and install other measures that would ensure surveillance of check-in security procedures from the entrance to the x-ray, etc. 

I am happy to note that, after the initial blunder of Coloma, Malacañang has been more responsible and President Aquino has clearly taken control with strong initial steps. Secretaries Jun Abaya and Secretary Rene Almendras are now in charge and hopefully will get to the bottom of this.

For good measure, a replacement of airport management might be in order to signal accountability and so there will be no whitewash.

The practical solutions are endless and should not be difficult to put into place. Unfortunately, as Ateneo de Manila professor Ramon Sunico posted: “It takes a certain talent or an extraordinary incompetence to get your own citizens to consider their own national airport the enemy.” 

Would it be too much to hope that we get over the hysteria and panic now, solve the problem, and move on to our big Apec party?

Facebook: Dean Tony La Vina Twitter: tonylavs 

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