Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian urged the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to go deeper into the probe of the “laglag-bala” or bullet-planting scheme at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) following the filing of criminal charges against four members of the PNP-Aviation Security Group (ASG) and two personnel of the Office for Transportation Security (OTS).
“While we laud the effort of the NBI in filing charges against four policemen from the PNP-ASG and two OTS personnel, the NBI should dig deeper so that the syndicate behind this ‘laglag-bala’ modus will be unmasked and brought to justice,” said Gatchalian, who represents Valenzuela City’s 1st Congressional District.
The NBI on Thursday filed criminal charges against two OTS personnel and four members of the PNP-ASG for their involvement in the “laglag-bala” against two outbound passengers, including the American Lane Michael White whose complaint of extortion was well-publicized in the media.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed that there were instances that the extortion scheme were perpetrated by OTS personnel. The scheme involves the planting of bullets in unsuspecting passengers. Personnel from either the OTS or the PNP-ASG would then ask victims for money to avoid detention.
DOJ Spokesperson Emmanuel Caparas, however, clarified that the NBI cannot confirm yet if there is a syndicate behind the bullet-planting scheme. He said the group working behind the scheme is not big enough to be considered a syndicate.
Public outrage prompted the NBI to step into the probe while airport authorities continued its investigation that led to the suspension and dismissal of some personnel from the OTS, the agency principally blamed for the irregularity.
Gatchalian thinks that a syndicate that is already well-entrenched in NAIA is behind the incidents of “laglag-bala” in the past given the thousands of incidents being recorded by OTS on a yearly basis.
“The fact that there is discrepancy between the data of the OTS and ASG as to the number of incidents where bullets were found in passengers’ luggage will indicate irregularity in the handling of the said cases,”Gatchalian said.
Had it not for the well-publicized cases of White and overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Gloria Ortinez Gatchalian said that NAIA officials will not lift a finger to investigate those behind the “laglag-bala” modus, which has become a lucrative source of additional income for some crooked personnel of the OTS and PNP-ASG.
The NPC senatorial bet pointed to the revelation of PNP-ASG director Francisco Pablo Balagtas that the OTS made 1,212 arrests in connection with the tanim-bala scandal from January to September this year. However, the PNP-ASG reported only 51 apprehensions during the same period.
At least 21 PNP-ASG members have been relieved from their posts in NAIA and are being probed over the “laglag-bala” modus. These ASG officers and men were slapped with administrative charges for failing to report the total number of passengers arrested for alleged possession of bullets.
Balagtas said 68 more ASG personnel linked to the alleged planting of bullets in the luggage of airline passengers are being investigated. (R. Burgos)