MANILA - If airport security officials were able to detect small bullets in the luggage of passengers, how could they fail to detect 2.5 kilograms of cocaine?
This was the question of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano during a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Thursday on the ''tanim-bala'' scam.
The failure to detect the 2.5 kilograms of cocaine at the NAIA led to the arrest of four Filipinas in Hong Kong.
READ: 4 Pinays slip out of NAIA with kilos of cocaine
To emphasize the size difference, Cayetano showed a bullet and 2.5 kilograms of flour in separate plastic bags representing cocaine.
Retired Commodore Roland Recomono, administrator of the Office for Transportation (OTS), explained that their x-ray machines at NAIA cannot detect cocaine. He said the cocaine will only register as organic substances.
The screeners' expertise, on the other hand, is only limited to the prohibited items based on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
He also confirmed that a syndicate might be behind the drug stash slipping past airport screeners.
But Cayetano said that the OTS can actually add to ICAO's list, based on Executive Order No. 311.
Recomono said in an earlier interview with Bandila that illegal substances like cocaine are not "prohibited items" as far as the OTS airport screeners are concerned.
WATCH: Recomono's Bandila interview
"Sa totoo lang, ang sinasabi ko nga, kung ang pagbabatayan natin ay 'yung ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), hindi s'ya (cocaine) prohibited considering it will not endanger ‘yun eroplano," he said.
"Marami po kasing hindi nakaka-intindi kung ano 'yun," the OTS chief added. "Kung tingnan n’yo yung mandate namin, it is to detect prohibited items that will endanger the plane."
This infographic on the OTS website shows the list of the prohibited items.
Recomono also said earlier that a syndicate was probably behind the smuggling of 2.5 kilograms of cocaine past airport screeners in NAIA.
"Marami pong posibilidad kung paano po lulusot. Ito po, pwede po nating sabihin na sindikato," he said.