Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian is calling for the immediate resignation of Undersecretary Roland Recomono of the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) for his statement justifying the smuggling of 2.5 kilos of cocaine past airport screeners at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
While admitting that a syndicate was probably behind the cocaine smuggling at the NAIA Terminal 3 last Sept. 26, Recomono virtually cleared OTS screeners who failed to detect the prohibited drugs in the hand-carried luggage of the arrested Filipinas.
“Instead of ordering a no-nonsense probe on the 2.5 kilo cocaine smuggling to determine who were behind it, Usec. Recomono came to the defense of his OTS personnel and virtually absolved them of any liability,” said Gatchalian, who was the first congressman to file a resolution calling for an inquiry into the series of laglag-bala incidents in NAIA.
In a live interview on ABS CBN’s Bandila late Tuesday evening, Recomono said that the x-ray being used by the OTS will fail to identify the prohibited drugs and will only register these as organic substances. He went on to say that illegal substances like cocaine are not “prohibited items” as far as the OTS airport screeners are concerned.
“Sa totoo lang, ang sinasabi ko nga, kung ang pagbabatayan natin ay ‘yung ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), hindi s’ya (cocaine) prohibited considering it will not endanger ‘yun eroplano…Kung tingnan n’yo yung mandate namin, it is to detect prohibited items that will endanger the plane,” said Recomono.
Gatchalian described Recomono’s reasoning as “warped logic” since any contraband, including illegal drugs, is banned from airplanes and the 2.5 kilos of cocaine smuggled by four Filipina passengers going to Hong Kong is a serious breach of airport security.
“Recomono himself admitted that a syndicate could be behind the smuggling of 2.5 kilos of cocaine past airport screeners in Terminal 3. The question is, what has he done to get to the bottom of this drug trafficking incident,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian said there is no other recourse for Recomono but to resign from his position as OTS chief. “If he refuses to step down, it is incumbent upon Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya to sack him and replace him with someone who can put a stop to drug trafficking in our airports.”
“This is the height of incompetence, if not stupidity. Here are our OTS screeners having a grand time finding bullets in several luggage and yet, they fail to detect the 2.5 kilos of cocaine that also passed through their X-ray machines,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian has reiterated his call for a top-to-bottom revamp of the OTS as more airline passengers fell victim to the “laglag-bala” modus at the NAIA.
The Valenzuela City lawmaker had earlier filed House Resolution No. 2419, which directs the committees on good government and on transportation to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the series of laglag-bala incidents in NAIA.
Gatchalian, at the same time, asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to extend all the help it could give to the four Filipinas who were arrested September 26 at the Hongkong International Airport in Lantau Island for trying to smuggle 2.5 kilos of cocaine.
The four Filipinas who went to Hongkong via Cebu Pacific flight 5J 142 were identified by the DFA asSheryl Chua, Marilou Thomas, Remelyn Rogue and a dentist by the name of Dr. Ana Loella.
“The DFA should extend all legal help to these four Filipinas especially if they were unwittingly used as drug mules by a drug trafficking syndicate. Their affidavit could be used to identify the syndicate which facilitated their exit at the NAIA Terminal 3” said Gatchalian. (R. Burgos)