Santiago, Cayetano call for probe of reported 'tanim bala' scam

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(L-R) Senators Santiago and Cayetano

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Presidential aspirant and senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a resolution to probe into the reported modus operandi in airports wherein bullets are planted in the luggage of passengers — ending in extortion.

In a statement on Friday (October 30), Santiago urged her colleagues through Senate Resolution No. 1635 to "consider creating a task force that will investigate alleged illicit activity of state agents, recommend sanctions against those involved, and put in place mechanisms that will deter similar schemes."

"We in Congress must also ensure that Republic Act No. 10591, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Act, is, on the one hand, properly implemented and, on the other, not abused by enforcers of the law," Santiago said.

Santiago made the move in response to an online petition signed by some 12,000 netizens decrying the so-called "tanim bala/laglag bala" (planting bullets) scam allegedly victimizing mostly overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

So far, six cases using the modus operandi had been reported in the media wherein victims were asked to pay huge amounts to avoid criminal charges.

"The perpetrators of the alleged scam are brazen, perhaps because they know they will not be punished. We must prove them wrong," Santiago said.

She added that the scandal might impact on Philippine tourism, a major job-generating industry, by sowing fear among foreigners.

For his part, vice presidential aspirant and senator Alan Peter Cayetano said on Friday that heads should roll unless the scam was immediately stopped.

"If airport officials cannot catch the culprits and put them in jail within 48 hours, then the best call is for them to resign from their posts," Cayetano said.

He added that he also planned on filing a resolution to conduct a probe on all other related concerns of OFWs and travelers passing through Philippine airports.

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma Jr. said that authorities were looking into the matter even if the the reported planting of bullets incidents were isolated cases.

"Kailangan din nating ilagay sa tamang konteksto. Libu-libo ang gumagamit ng paliparan at iilan lang naman 'yung mga nakitaan ng ganitong mga — nakitaan ng bala... Sa kabila 'non ay iniimbestiga at sinisiyasat ang mga pangyayaring ito." Coloma said.

[Translation: "Let's put this in proper context. Thousands of passengers pass through our airports and those who were found with bullets were just a few people... But still, we are investigating the matter."]