Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian today called for a top-to-bottom revamp of the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) which is now under fire for the series of “laglag bala” incidents that have victimized a number of departing airline passengers.
Gatchalian’s call for a total revamp at the OTS was prompted by the revelation of Tarlac Rep. Noel Villanueva that he too fell prey to the “laglag bala syndicate” while he was leaving for abroad sometime in August 2014.
The OTS, which is under the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), is the agency in charge of the X-ray scanning machines where luggages of departing passengers, both checked-in and hand-carried, pass through before checking in at the airline’s counter.
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Villanueva made the disclosure Tuesday during the House committee on transportation’s hearing on the budget of the DOTC and its attached agencies.
Gatchalian finds it alarming that OTS personnel carry bullets in their pockets, which is already a breach of security at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
“There is no question that OTS personnel have already lost their credibility and it is but proper that a top-to-bottom revamp be made by DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya Jr. in order to rectify the breakdown in security at the NAIA,” said Gatchalian, who had 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 added: “It’s bad enough that such nefarious activities being committed by OTS personnel are causing an embarrassment to the NAIA and as an institution. But what’s worse is the serious threat it poses to our tourism industry and the over-all security of our airports.”
The Valenzuela City lawmaker pointed out it is high time for Secretary Abaya to personally address the issue by ordering a total revamp of OTS personnel and assigning new personnel with untarnished record to man the X-ray machines in all NAIA terminals.
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“This is the height of mismanagement on the part of NAIA and DOTC. How can they assure us of airline safety if the very people who are supposed to protect us are the suspects? Matagal na pala itong nangyayari, but Secretary Abaya doesn’t have a clue,” said Gatchalian, a majority member of the House committee on tourism.
At least two “laglag-bala” incidents have been reported. The two victims were first-time American tourist Michael White and a wheelchair-bound balikbayan who had to pay P500 to the airport security personnel to be allowed to depart the country.
White, a 20-year-old missionary from Florida, was detained for five days by airport police for allegedly concealing two caliber 22 bullets in his checked-in baggage, which was discovered at the X-ray scanner area of NAIA Terminal 4.
White alleged that a male security personnel told him that his problem will be settled for P30,000. (R. Burgos)