There was a time when we Filipinos were notoriously known for bringing to the United States stinky bagoong and tuyo which would often end up being confiscated by American airport authorities despite being carefully wrapped in plastic and hidden inside their luggage.
But those caught were never detained. All they had to do was plead that they didn’t know that these items were banned and next time they enter the US they would no longer attempt their harmless smuggling.
Today, the stinky bagoong and tuyo are no longer banned provided they are declared upon arrival. But in their stead, new pasalubong gifts for relatives in the US have become favorite items—chicharon, Magic Sarap products, pirated DVDs, and fake brands T-shirts and designer bags.
These are banned items at US airports, yet our Ninoy Aquino International Airport authorities do not bother to warn our unknowing kababayan about bringing them in. Thus, they are packed in their luggage only to be confiscated like the stinky bagoong and tuyo of yesteryears.
What our airport authorities do now—using their high-tech detection and X-ray gadgets—is go after bullets tidily tucked in the luggage and hand-carried bags of all passengers flying out from Naia.
Why? They are taking seriously the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act that PNoy signed into law on May 29, 2013 and its implementing rules and regulations that former Police Director General Alan Purisima issued a year before the Mamasapano Massacre.
The Act is very clear –
“…the State shall provide for a comprehensive law regulating the ownership, possession, carrying, manufacture, dealing in and importation of firearms, ammunition, or parts thereof, in order to provide legal support to law enforcement agencies in their campaign against crime.”
In particular, the Act imposes an imprisonment penalty of six to12 years upon any person who unlawfully acquired or possessed any ammunition which it defines as “consisting of a bullet, gunpowder, cartridge case and primer or loaded shell for use in any firearm.”
Efficient and zealous, our airport authorities have caught since January at least 1,200 passengers carrying one or two bullets. They are so impartial that they have caught offenders regardless of nationality—Filipino, American and Japanese —even including a disabled passenger.
Mostly overseas workers, the 1,200 passengers had their flights delayed or cancelled pending their investigation. Most of the confiscated bullets, however, lacked one or more of the four components and couldn’t be considered ammunition. Thus, only 44 were subsequently charged in violation of the Act.
These were disclosed by Naia’s general manager Jose Angel Honrado, who was appointed to his post by PNoy immediately in 2010 after assuming the presidency.
A nephew of Senator Ninoy Aquino and born in Concepcion, Tarlac, he graduated from Ateneo de Manila University but not from the Philippine Military Academy, West Point or US Naval Academy. Still, he was able to enter the Philippine Air Force as a Second Lieutenant and worked his way up from there.
He was with the faculty of the Air Force Officers School when he was made the Commanding Officer of the Presidential Escort, Presidential Security Group immediately after the Edsa Revolution of 1986 until June 30, 1992.
He continued to serve President Cory Aquino as her military assistant and security officer until June 1994 when he left to study at the Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, US.
Returning in 1995, he was made dean of Academics at the Air Command and Staff College and earned his rank of major general in 2006.
Having apprehended so many bullet-carrying passengers, he now probably believes that he deserves to keep his Naia post until June 30, 2016 when all he has accomplished was deprived OFWs of “anting-antings” that they need for protection when they face, alone, a cruel and unknown world outside the country.
These confiscations had little to do with government’s anti-crime campaign.
He should put order at the airport that he manages. Wasn’t it voted in 2012 the worst airport in Asia because of “its collapsing ceilings, overcrowding, rampant bribery, and taxi drivers scamming travelers on fares.” Until now, it is still an airport terminal of “disorganized taxi lanes and chaotic atmosphere.”
His inspectors should prevent illegal drugs from being planted or tucked inside the luggage of ignorant Filipino passengers because their failure could result in our countrymen being caught abroad with these drugs and facing the firing squad.
He should also assure us that huge amounts of dollars are no longer being smuggled out through his airport.
Remember—a senator’s wife was arrested in the US in November 2011 bringing $50,000 while a general’s two sons were caught in December 2003 with $100,000 at the San Francisco International Airport. Their violation was the non-declaration of their money.
Soon, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation delegates would come and go.
Like all United Nations employees who have been forewarned about these bullets, they better not take any even if these were anting-anting that have been blessed at Quiapo Church or bullet souvenirs of PNoy’s practice target shooting.
They would surely miss their flights back.