MANILA – Airport security screening personnel are allegedly employing ''spotters'' to help them find the ''perfect'' passenger to victimize with their so-called ''tanim-bala'' scheme, a reliable source told ABS-CBN News.
The source disclosed to airport reporters that the nefarious activities of the syndicate have gone unabated for the past 20 years, and even the dilapidated closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed at the four airport terminals cannot detect how bullets end up in the luggage of their victims.
''Sa tagal po nila sa trabahong ito, alam nila kung saan naka-pwesto ang mga CCTV ng airport at alam nila kung alin ang mga sirang CCTV cameras,'' said an airport source who spoke to ABS-CBN News on condition of anonymity.
It was also disclosed that the conspirators or spotters normally prey on passengers who have a connecting flight to international or domestic destinations.
''Minsan po, sa address pa lang na nakalagay sa balikbayan box or luggage tukoy na nila ang destinasyon at tiyak nila na dadaan at dadaan muli ang pasahero sa security check ng airport,'' the source added.
The alleged spotters, according to the source, usually distract passengers before they open the latter's baggage and swiftly plant the bullet.
20 VICTIMS A DAY?
The source said, before the tanim-bala modus operandi was exposed and reported by the media, the group normally victimized more than 20 passengers a day, raking hundreds of thousands of pesos from passengers who do not want to be hassled.
''Dati po mahina ang 20 pasaherong biktima. Nang lumabas na po sa media, maingat na po sila kung sino ang tutuluyan at kung sino ang kokotongan,'' the source said.
The source also disclosed that the tanim-bala modus operandi is already an open-secret activity of some unscrupulous airport security screeners, who get 60 percent of the bribes. The remaining 40 percent go to the alleged spotters.
The source said spotters normally mix themselves with the crowd at the departure or arrival area and are quite familiar in profiling passengers and executing the modus operandi.
''Segundo lang ang kailangan nila, nailalaglag na po yung bala na hindi na namamalayan ng pasahero, kaya nagugulat ang pasahero kung bakit may nakikitang bala sa bagahe nila,'' the source said.
The source added that by simply conducting a lifestyle check on all security screeners, it can be determined who among them are involved in illegal activities.
''Malilit lang po ang suweldo ng mga security screeners kaya kung talagang iimbestigahan, makikita nila kung bakit naglalakihan ang mga bahay, magagarang sasakyan, nasa pribadong eskuwelahan ang mga anak, nakaka-biyahe sa ibang bansa at marami ay may ekstrang asawa pa,'' the source disclosed.
The source is a spouse of a deceased airport security screener who was involved in the tanim-bala modus operandi.
Her intention in exposing the modus is to help passengers avoid being victimized by the alleged syndicate.
''Hindi po sila titigil dahil kailangan nila tustusan ang luho ng kanilang pamumuhay kaya dapat balaan natin ang publiko.''
The scam was first exposed in the media in September, when a Facebook post of a balikbayan who claimed to have been victimized by the tanim-bala scheme went viral.
The wheelchair-bound balikbayan said she paid P500 to the airport security personnel to allow her to depart the country.
An American tourist was also detained after a bullet was found
in the pocket of his luggage. He also claimed being victimized by the same scheme.
Public rage against the alleged modus operandi was reignited when an ABS-CBN News exclusive report revealed that a long-time Hong Kong overseas Filipino worker
was arrested at the NAIA after a bullet was found in her bag.
With the issue getting bigger, Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya ordered an investigation
into the alleged scam. The Office for Transportation Security, which handles airport security screeners, is under the DOTC.
An online petition
urging presidential aspirants Senators Grace Poe and Miriam Defensor Santiago to investigate the so-called ''tanim-bala'' scheme has gained the support of thousands of Filipinos, with the petitioners expecting more signatures.
'AVOID BEING A VICTIM'
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) earlier issued tips to air transport passengers on how to avoid falling prey to those who extort money using this 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.