A current scam happening within the security terminals of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has left travelers in a state of paranoia when passing through the airport in the country’s capital.
In a photo posted by passenger Wilfredo Garrido on Facebook, two travelers are seen with their backpacks secured in plastic wrap to prevent illegal planting of bullets. The scam, called “laglag bala,” (the act of dropping bullets), is believed to be performed and carried out by members of airport security, targeting unknowing foreigners and travelers.
For the past few months, bullets have been mysteriously appearing inside the luggage and bags of unsuspecting passengers who are then greeted with extortion methods. According to the Office of Transportation Security (OTS), a total of 3,325 bullets were found in random bags of passengers from January to August 2015. OTS added that most of the bullets were found at the airport’s final security check, a few steps away from the boarding areas. Lane Michael White, a victim who has gone on record, firmly believes that members of the airport security are the ones planting the bullets. In a report by Coconuts Manila, White claims that a security personnel offered help and assistance for Php 30,000.
Since then, four security personnel have been temporarily suspended from their posts after another victim, Red de Guzman, said that airport personnel asked Php 500 after a bullet was found in his luggage on September 18. Here is a partial list of passengers who have been victimized by the said scam.
As unsettling as the scam already is, people have found more ways to get money from travelers. A plastic-wrapping service called “ProtectaBag” is now available in the departure areas of NAIA’s Terminal 2 and3, which explains the plastic wrap around the travelers’ bags. The service costs Php 160 per bag of any size.
The issue has become so serious that even Time.com and BBC have published stories about the scam. Sherwin Gatchalian, a member of the tourism committee in the country’s House of Representatives, said to BBC that the scam is “becoming an international embarrassment.” Gatchalian added that the suspects were “not afraid to prey on foreigners.”
Atty. Presida Acosta, Chief of the Public attorney’s office, has spoken about the matter and announced on Monday that the incriminatory act of planting evidence is punishable by Reclusion Perpetua.
“Any incriminatory act of planting evidence can be criminally charged of ‘incriminatory machinations’ under Article 363 of the Revised Penal Code (arresto mayor) and section 38 of the Comprehensive Firearms Act R.A. No. 10591 regarding the planting of ammunitions punishable with reclusion perpetua,” wrote Acosta in her Facebook page.
Investigations on suspected personnel are currently ongoing.