AKLAN - A young couple, who had just spent their honeymoon in Boracay, was detained at Caticlan Airport on Thursday after 15 bullets were found in their hand-carried luggage.
Rochelle Sulit and her husband, Jerome, were also allegedly asked to pay P80,000 so they can be released from detention.
The Sulits were on their way back to Manila when airport screeners found 14 live bullets and one empty shell inside Jerome's luggage at 11 a.m. They denied owning the ammunition.
Speaking to radio dzMM on Friday, Rochelle admitted that her husband's bag was not entirely zipped when it passed the x-ray machine because they thought the alleged bullet-planting scheme had been curbed.
"Hindi po masyadong naka-sarado so pwede siyang hulugan po. Panatag po iyung asawa ko na wala naman pong ganoong case dito kasi wala na po iyung issue ng tanim-bala," she said.
Sulit reiterated that they had no prior knowledge of the bullets, adding that they passed Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and Caticlan Airport on their way to Boracay without any trouble.
She added that bringing bullets to their honeymoon would serve no purpose.
Sulit also claimed that Jerome's bag got stuck in the inspection machine for several minutes before airport personnel reported a suspicious object and instructed her husband to take it out.
She added that an airport screener had called higher-ups right away, even before she and her husband could insist that the bullets were not theirs.
"Nag-i-explain pa lang po kami, mayroon na pong tao doon na tumawag na sa taas kaya nalaman agad, imbes pong pinakinggan muna iyung eksplanasyon namin para maging okay din po lahat," she narrated.
Sulit claimed overhearing that the airport screener reported it immediately allegedly because the screener was after a promotion.
"Motibo raw po noon kaya nagsumbong agad kasi promotion daw po. Ganoon po ang dinig ko, na nagpapa-promote daw po iyung nagsumbong, nagpapalakas po," she said.
The newlyweds were later brought to the police station where they were allegedly asked to pay P80,000 for their release.
"Pagdating po sa presinto, [hinihingan] po kami ng P80,000 para lang po ma-release. E wala naman po kaming ganoong halaga. Pero iyung P80,000 po na iyun, may kaso pa ang asawa ko," she said.
Sulit said that as of 7 a.m. Friday, they remained detained at the police station, awaiting charges to be filed against her husband.
Unable to hold back tears, Sulit said they had not eaten since being arrested due to anxiety.
"Hindi nga po makakain dahil sa nangyayari na hindi po... Parang kapalit po yata ng kasiyahan namin, ito po," she said with her voice breaking.
PAO TO THE RESCUE
The Public Attorney's Office (PAO), meanwhile, sent a lawyer to represent the Sulits and accompany them back to the airport.
PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta also slammed the Aklan police for detaining the couple for over 11 hours without filing a case against them, which she said is illegal.
Acosta also maintained that airport authorities should have just confiscated the bullets and allowed the Sulits to board their flight because there had been no apparent "animus possidendi" or intent to possess.
Last week, an elderly couple was also barred from boarding their California-bound flight and allegedly asked to give a bribe of P50,000 after NAIA personnel found a bullet in their hand-carried bag.
Salvacion Cortabista, 75, and her husband Esteban, 78, are set to file charges against the airport personnel allegedly involved in the extortion scheme.
The PAO, which is also handling their case, is only awaiting the testimony of their witness.
Acosta said the Cortabistas have also asked the Philippine National Police to conduct a parallel investigation into their case.
READ: Senior citizen victimized by 'tanim-bala' is former airport employee