MANILA - The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) is calling on all victims and witnesses to report incidents of "tanim-bala" (bullet-planting) in a bid to stop the extortion scheme which has put the Philippines' airports to shame.
"Ang nakataya dito ang karangalan ng Pilipinas. Nakataya po dito ang integrity ng Pilipinas as a nation. Nakataya po dito yung employability ng OFWs," VACC chairman Dante Jimenez said.
In an interview on dzMM Tuesday, Jimenez said the VACC has been receiving reports of the tanim-bala modus operandi since 2012.
The scam, which involves the planting of bullets inside a victim's bag for extortion purposes, mostly targets departing overseas Filipino workers.
Complaints do not prosper, however, since most of the victims end up choosing to pay a bribe instead of facing investigation due to pressure.
"Gigipitin ka dahil malapit na ang flight mo. Even P500... nakikipagareglo," said Jimenez. "Yan ang realidad... This is really unfortunate. Bakit? Kasi apektado na talaga ang Pilipinas."
"Dun ako nalulungkot, dahil walang lakas ng loob," he added.
'NI HI, NI HO, WALA'
Jimenez also expressed disappointment over the supposed lack of action from the government in the cases, particularly that of OFW Gloria Ortinez who was arrested after a rifle bullet was allegedly found in her luggage.
Ortinez, who works as a household worker in Hong Kong, was later released without having to post bail after the fiscal's office said the evidence submitted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Aviation Security Group was questionable.
Jimenez said the bullet supposedly found in the OFW's bag was different from the one presented as evidence before the fiscal's office.
Despite being released, Ortinez was traumatized by the incident, experiencing difficulty sleeping and eating.
READ: OFW traumatized by 'tanim-bala' incident
"Ni Hi, ni ho, wala daw," Jimenez said, pertaining to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). "Bakit naman ganun? Ide-deadma mo lang ang isang issue? Tapos sasabihin politically motivated?"
Ortinez's lawyer also revealed the OFW may even lose her job because of the tanim-bala issue.
"Pagdating naman po sa kanyang employment, sa inisyal na usapan, baka nga po may panganib na baka hindi na talaga siya makabalik sa kanyang employer pero kinaklaro pa po namin. Ayaw pa po naming magsalita nang tapos hanggat hindi pa po nakakausap ulit iyung kanyang employer," Atty. Spocky Farolan said.
READ: OFW 'tanim-bala' victim may lose job: lawyer
The VACC chairman has dismissed as baseless insinuations that the tanim-bala issue is just part of a scheme meant to discredit the Aquino administration and hurt the chances of the President's anointed successor, Mar Roxas, in next year's elections.
"Yung mga ganung kaisipan, pwede ba maging totoo naman tayo? Ang biktima po dito ay isang ordinary OFW for 26 years," he said.
READ: Scam or conspiracy? Roxas wants truth behind 'tanim-bala'
NBI, NOT OTS OR PNP
According to Jimenez, it is best that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) step in and be the one to look into the tanim-bala extortion scheme, and not the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) or the PNP Aviation Security Group, in order to get a "credible" investigation.
He said the NBI should focus on the airport personnel on duty during the period when most of the tanim-bala incidents are reported.
"Yan ang mga very powerful diyan," he said, referring to the OTS and the PNP Aviation Security Group.
Jimenez also took exception to the statement of the PNP Aviation Security Group that it is virtually impossible to plant a bullet inside an airport passenger's baggage.
The police unit also blamed the superstitious use of bullets as amulets for the alleged tanim-bala cases at the country's airports.
READ: PNP blames belief in talismans for 'tanim-bala' incidents
"Sino bang authorized na agency or personnel na magdala ng baril at bala?" Jimenez quipped.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, the VACC, and the Network of Independent Travel Agents on Tuesday filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman seeking the preventive suspension of four officials who allegedly failed to conduct thorough, proactive, and preventive measures on the bullet-planting incidents:
Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Jose Angel Honrado, OTS Administrator Roland Recomono, and PNP Aviation Security Group Director Pablo Francisco Balagtas.
The complaint cited the Executive Order No. 226 or the Institutionalization of the Doctrine of Command Responsibility in all Government Offices, Particularly at all Levels of Command in the Philippine National Police and all Government Agencies, which states that "government officials or supervisors of any law enforcement agency shall be held accountable for 'Neglect of Duty' under the doctrine of command responsibility if they have knowledge of an offense committed by their subordinates and, despite such knowledge, did not take preventive or corrective action either before, during, or immediately after its commission."
READ: 4 officials face complaint over 'tanim-bala'