How to avoid being a 'tanim-bala' victim

Raoul Esperas

Posted at Oct 01 2015 03:43 PM | Updated as of Oct 01 2015 11:51 PM

MANILA – The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has issued tips to air transport passengers on how to avoid falling prey to those who extort money using the ''tanim-bala'' scheme.

CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio said passengers are advised to strictly monitor all their luggage and never allow strangers to handle them.

Apolonio said all zippers, pouches, and pockets of their luggage must be closed, locked and sealed so that if the seal gets broken, a passenger will immediately notice that his bag was opened without his permission.

When passing through airport security X-ray and walk-thru metal detectors, CAAP said passengers should never lose sight of their respective luggage. They should immediately retrieve their bags as they exit the X-ray machine.

Apolonio added that passengers should also refrain from accepting any luggage or items from strangers.

CAAP will also require all airport security personnel under the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) to wear white gloves while on duty for sanitation purposes.

This will also serve as deterrent against unscrupulous individuals who will try to victimize innocent passengers.

"Security is everyone's concern so we must all be vigilant for the protection of the riding passengers," Apolonio said.

CAAP has already allotted funds for additional and upgraded cameras to all CAAP-managed airport.

CAAP is currently managing 84 provincial airports, 42 of which are involved in commercial operations.

The OTS recently came under fire after some its personnel were accused of engaging in the so-called ''tanim bala'' modus. Some of its personnel were also accused of stealing the bag of an overseas Filipino worker.

WATCH: 4 na empleyado sa NAIA, sinibak kaugnay ng 'tanim-bala'

'NO EVIDENCE'

Undersecretary Roland Recomono said on Thursday the OTS' investigation - based mainly on footage from security cameras - has not found any airport personnel engaging in the alleged extortion scheme.

''Right now there are two incidents. Dalawang incidents pa lang ang na-report na ganyan, at sinasabi nga na may sindikato (Only two such incidents have been reported, and there is said to be a syndicate),'' Recomono told reporters at the sidelines of the Department of Transportation and Communications' budget hearing at the Senate.

''Wala namang ebidensya na magsasabing mayro'n talagang sindikato (There is no evidence that would show there is indeed a syndicate).''

Although Recomono raised the possibility the so-called ''tanim-bala'' or ''laglag-bala'' scheme took place outside the airport, he said there was no available footage to prove it. Thus, it was not covered by his office's investigation.

Recomono said what the OTS probe found was that certain airport personnel did not follow the correct procedures in the case of Rhed Austria de Guzman. The personnel have been suspended and administrative cases are set to be filed against them.

In a Facebook post, De Guzman said she was surprised to find two bullets in her bag when it was being screened at NAIA Terminal 2. She ended up paying the screening officers after a porter allegedly advised her to ''fix'' the situation.

Recomono said the screening officers committed lapses by not reporting the contraband to airport police and accepting money from De Guzman, based on CCTV footage. But he added there was no evidence to prove the bullets were planted in De Guzman's bag.

Recomono said the same was true in the case of American missionary Lane Michael White, who was detained after bullets were found in his luggage. White had alleged that he was framed and refused to pay the P30,000 that authorities were allegedly asking from him.

''As far as that particular incident is concerned, natapos na ang aming investigation based sa CCTV footage na binigay sa amin ng NAIA (Our investigation based on CCTV footage that NAIA gave us is finished),'' said Recomono.

''Wala 'yong tinatawag nilang nilagay ang bala doon (It's not true that the bullets were planted there).'' – with Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News