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Taxi driver, a missing link on ‘laglag-bala’ syndicate in NAIA?

Photo by Julius Neil Habana

The taxi driver who allegedly planted a .38 caliber bullet on the luggage of a departing seafarer could provide the missing link to the syndicate behind the series of “laglag-​bala” incidents at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), according to Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian.

Gatchalian was referring to the viral Facebook post of a netizen, Julius Niel Habana, whose friend hired a Vigil Taxi to drop him off at the NAIA last Oct. 29.

The Vigil Taxi driver allegedly volunteered to place the victim’s bag in the compartment. However, the passenger who is a seafarer noticed the driver placing something inside the bag.
Habana then told the victim to instruct the driver to drop him at his boarding house instead. Habana and his friend inspected the bag and discovered a .38 caliber bullet inside.

The seafarer, who had an international flight to catch, opted to just board another cab. The Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is set to summon the Vigil Taxi taxi driver who allegedly planted the .38 caliber bullet on the seaman’s luggage.

“The suspected taxi driver should be immediately investigated as he could be the missing link to the laglag-bala syndicate in the NAIA that have already victimized a number of outgoing airline passengers, particularly those with connecting flights,” said Gatchalian.

Gatchalian has 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.

​The lawmaker also called for a total revamp at the Office of Transport Security (OTS) following 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.

Gatchalian said a reorganization at the NAIA should be in order following the placing of at least 40 OTS personnel under investigation for various complaints. The OTS is directly under the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

“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,” Gatchalian pointed out.

At least five people have been arrested in recent days for allegedly carrying bullets inside their bags. The cases have angered the public, with some lawmakers slamming airport authorities for creating a “climate of fear” among passengers at the NAIA.

Gatchalian said the DOTC should immediately restudy and reorganize the structure of aviation security as the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager has no direct operational control over OTS personnel, which serves as the first layer of security with their X-ray machines.

The “laglag-bala” incidents at NAIA, which also caught international attention, have prompted calls for the resignation of erring airport personnel and MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado.

The “laglag-bala” scam was first exposed in the media in September, when a Facebook post of a balikbayan who claimed to have been victimized by the tanim-bala scheme went viral. The wheelchair-bound balikbayan said she paid P500 to the airport security personnel to allow her to depart the country. (R. Burgos)