MANILA (UPDATED) - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has dismissed the criminal complaint against several airport officers charged for allegedly victimizing American Lane Michael White using the so-called "tanim-bala" modus.
The DOJ ruled that there was insufficient evidence presented by complainants White and his mother, Eloisa Zoleta, to show that respondents Maria Elena Cena and Marvin Garcia of the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) could be held liable for the charges of robbery/extortion; violations of Republic Act (RA) No. 7438 (An Act Defining Certain Rights of Person Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation and Duties of the Arresting, Detaining and Investigating Officers) and RA No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).
The department said there was also no sufficient evidence against respondents SPO2 Rolando A. Clarin, P/CINSP Adriano Junio, SPO4 Ramon Bernardo, and SPO2 Romy Navarro of the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group (PNP-AVSEGROUP) on the charges for violations of Article V, Section 38 (Liability for Planting Evidence) of RA No. 10591 (Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act); robbery/extortion; and violations of RA No. 7438 and RA No. 3019.
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In its 11-page resolution, the DOJ said that while it believes the .22-caliber ammunition found inside White's luggage was not his, there was no evidence to pin down respondents as the one who "planted" it.
"We believe complainant White that the .22-caliber ammunition found inside his luggage is not his. In fact, [Regional Trial Court] Pasay already dismissed the case against him for illegal possession of ammunition. However, we cannot say with certainty that it was respondents Cena and Garcia who inserted or placed the ammunition inside complainant's luggage... there is a high probability that the ammunition was placed by another person, a stranger to this case," the resolution read.
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The DOJ noted that the Whites were billeted by their airline in a hotel for an overnight stay when their original flight was cancelled; the subject luggage was left with the valet during their hotel stay, the DOJ noted, and that "[t]he likelihood that the ammunition was planted during such time when the luggage was unattended is not remote."
As to respondents Clarin, Junio, Bernardo, and Navarro, the DOJ noted that there was no proof that they extorted money from White.
In their counter-affidavits, they pointed out that they merely informed White of the fine, provided by law, that he was to to pay for violating it.
"We do not find probable cause to respondents for all the cases filed against them," the DOJ ruled.
The preliminary investigation proceedings was presided by Associate Prosecution Attorney (APA) II Honey Rose E. Delgado.
White, an American missionary, claimed to have fallen victim to the bullet-planting modus upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 4 (NAIA 4) on September 17, 2015. His camp alleged that respondent airport officers tried to extort P30,000 for the non-filing of charges.
The controversial "tanim-bala" modus at the NAIA terminals has received widespread criticism here and abroad with passengers "bullet-proofing" their luggages by wrapping these in plastic or heavy-duty tapes.
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The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), in a fact-finding probe report submitted to the DOJ, concluded that while there are some unscrupulous airport officers at the NAIA behind the bullet-planting scam, it has not been established that an organized syndicate was responsible.
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How does the 'tanim-bala' scam work?