Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian dismissed as “premature” the statement of Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya ruling out the existence of a “laglag-bala” syndicate at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) since the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has just started its own independent probe.
Gatchalian also disagreed with Abaya that the laglag-bala “cases have been blown out of proportion” since such incidents should not be happening in our airports, which serve the show window of our country to foreign tourists.
“Secretary Abaya should distinguish passengers who bring bullets as pendant or amulets from those whose luggage fell prey to unscrupulous airport personnelwho plant bullets and extort money from their victims, who are mostly outbound passengers,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian was cited as example Marie Paz Trias who was the first victim of “laglag-bala” to file a formal complaint before the NBI.
Trias narrated to NBI probers that she was told by two airport screeners that there was a bullet in her bag. Trias, who was accompanying her mother and grandmother to Singapore, told the airport screeners that she could prove she had no bullet in her bag.
Sensing trouble, the two airport screeners allowed Trias, her mother and grandmother to board their flight and told them that they will just declared the confiscated bullet as an “amulet”. The incident happened last Oct. 27 at the NAIA Terminal 3.
“Government officials should not dismiss the case of Trias as isolated since there have been other complaints, such as the case of OFW Gloria Ortinez who might lose her job as nanny in Hong Kong because of the alleged bullet found in her hand-carry luggage,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian also disclosed that a friend of his reported to him of another “laglag-bala” case involving senior citizen Monalisa Valmonte Rico, a Philippine Airlines passenger of PR720 bound for the United Kingdom via Hong Kong which was set to depart Wednesday (Nov. 4) at 2 p.m.
Rico was held at the final security check around 11:30 a.m. after OTS security screener Maria Rica Verano found 5.56 caliber bullets (used for M-16 rifles) inside her hand-carry bag. Verano immediately placed Rico under the custody of the airport police.
“This is really suspicious since the X-ray screeners before the airline check-in counter did not find any bullet in her bag. This madness is really getting out of hand. I’ve already warned the airport management and national government about this months ago but unfortunately, DOTC never lifted a finger,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian has filed last September House Bill No. 2419, directing the House Committees on Good Government and on Transportation to investigate, in aid of legislation, the series of “laglag-bala” incidents at the NAIA which victimized Tarlac Rep. Noel Villanueva in 2014.
“I will never stop till we get to the bottom of this. I’m calling on Congress to fast-track the investigation of this incident and punish the culprits who are behind this “laglag-bala” extortion racket,” said Gatchalian.
Malacanang has encouraged lawmakers to look into the Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition amid calls that the penalty for passengers carrying single bullets is too harsh. (R. Burgos)