Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian urged the House leadership to immediately act on 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 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Gatchalian issued the call amid reports that some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) would rather spend Christmas abroad rather than land in jail due to the alleged “laglag-bala” extortion scheme at the NAIA.
More than 5,000 people have already signed a Change.org petition calling on both houses of Congress to immediately conduct an investigation on the “laglag-bala” scheme, which have already victimized a number of OFWs, the latest of which is the case involving Gloria Ortinez, an OFW in Hong Kong for 20 years.
Ortinez was arrested earlier this week after personnel of the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) claimed that she has a bullet from a carbine rifle inside her luggage. The Pasay City prosecutor’s office has ordered her release after determining that the bullet the airport police presented as evidence against her was different from the one shown in the photograph they had taken when they allegedly discovered the prohibited item.
Gatchalian, author of House Resolution 2419, finds it alarming that OTS personnel carry bullets in their pockets, which is already a breach of security at the NAIA. The OTS is under the direct control of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
The Valenzuela City representative pointed out 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.
“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,” explained Gatchalian.
Gatchalian maintained it is high time for 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.
“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.
As Gatchalian calls for an immediate probe when Congress resumes its session next week, another 68-year-old Filipina headed to Boracay was arrested at the NAIA after a bullet was discovered in her hand carry-on bag. Members of PNP-Aviation Security Group arrested Revelina A. Combis after a .45 cal. bullet was found in her luggage.
At least two “laglag-bala” incidents have also been reported last month. 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.
Even actress Lea Salonga has expressed her concern over the series of “laglag bala” incidents at the NAIA and reminded travelers to be careful in traveling to the Philippines.
Salonga wrote on her Facebook page on Wednesday (Oct. 28): “Until the authorities get to the bottom of this, I would suggest being extremely careful in traveling to the Philippines. Reportedly, airport employees are planting bullets into the luggage of unsuspecting travelers and demanding payment.”
“Nakakahiya. Sobrang nakakahiya. Yes, folks, this is the country from which I hail. The country that has birthed the heroic and artistic, as well as the criminal and corrupt. Right now, it looks like the latter is outnumbering the former. Ang kawawang bayan ko. Paano na ito?,” said Salonga.
Ednalyn Purungganan, an OFW-based in Hong Kong, started the online petition amid concerns over the discovery of bullets inside the luggage of passengers at NAIA in the past months.
“We are planning to go home in December, but after what happened to Gloria Ortinez who is a domestic helper like us, we are concerned that we might suffer the same fate,” read the petition written in Filipino. (R. Burgos)