MANILA - Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya is open to a proposal to place airport screeners and other personnel under a lifestyle check
to stop the alleged "tanim-bala" modus inside the country's airports.
Speaking to ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda, Abaya said letting the National Bureau of Investigation conduct the lifestyle checks on airport personnel would help clear his men of any involvement in the scam.
"Marami po diyan ay marangal at naglilingkod sa bayan, pinag-aaral ang kanilang mga anak, kumikita para sa kanilang pamilya. Pati sila, nade-demoralize sa issue na ito at karamihan sa kanila ay walang kinalaman dito, talagang marangal na naglilingkod dito," he said.
"Kung [NBI] ang magsabi, at least may partial, independent agency na magsasabing imbes na within the DOTC family lang ang nagsasalita."
How does the 'tanim-bala' scam work?
Abaya said there must be evidence of wrongdoing before firing any airport personnel being linked to the modus.
"Bago tayo manibak, siguraduhin muna natin na may ebidensya at iyung tamang tao ang sisibakin. Mahirap iyung taga lang tayo nang taga ng ulo rito. Again, may due process," he said.
The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and other agencies have come under fire for failing to stop an alleged extortion racket at the nation's main airport involving security personnel planting bullets in passengers' luggage.
The allegations, which have dominated local news, prompted the United Nations to warn its staff of the potential dangers and the government to install extra security cameras at Manila's airport terminals.
Under the alleged scheme, live bullets are placed inside the bags of airline passengers who are then detained for violation of a law on illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. Victims of the so-called 'tanim-bala' modus have said they are asked to pay a bribe so that no charges will be filed.
LIST: Passengers allegedly victimized by 'tanim-bala'
In the interview, Abaya reiterated there is no concrete evidence that NAIA personnel are involved in alleged extortion activities.
He also maintained that many of the passengers apprehended for carrying bullets admitted they use the bullets as talismans. The official also urged passengers to abandon the superstitious use of bullets as amulets.
"Iyung anting-anting, huwag na ninyong ipasok sa paliparan. Kapag paliparan, siguro pagdadasal lang [ang] mas mahalagang proteksyon sa ibang bansa, hindi na iyung anting-anting po," he said.
He said he has not yet seen a viral music video mocking government officials for failing to stop the "tanim-bala" extortion scheme.
"Sa akin iyang video na iyan, bahagi lang ng paglilingkod iyan. At karapatan lang ng tao na patuloy batikusin ang mga naglilingkod sa kanila. Humihingi kami ng pasensya at ito ay nagiging issue sa ating paliparan," he said.
PANOORIN: 'Tanim-bala' music video
Abaya also promised that problems hounding the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) will soon be things of the past.
He said new train coaches
will deliver faster rides for passengers by the first quarter of 2016.
Abaya said the rehabilitation of 12 Schindler-brand escalators will be completed on December. The DOTC also aims to complete the procurement processes for the rehabilitation of 32 to 33 units of Mistsubishi escalators and elevators sometime around the middle of 2016.
A new service provider will also soon head service maintenance for the MRT-3, he said. With Agence France-Presse