Saranggani Rep. Manny Pacquiao will assign his own personal lawyers to assist “victims” of the so-called “tanim-bala” modus operandi of an alleged extortion ring that has been operating at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Pacquiao, vice chairman of the House Committee on OFW Welfare, said he is strongly convinced that many, if not all, outbound air passengers arrested at the NAIA for allegedly stashing bullets in their travelling bags are innocent.
The Filipino boxing icon has offered to hire lawyers for alleged victims of the airport-based extortion gang that allegedly plant bullets in luggage and travelling bags of air passengers as part of an extortion scheme.
Pacquiao said he is willing to assign his lawyers, believed to be among the best in the legal profession, to defend those who are facing charges of illegal possession of ammunition, especially OFWs, who refused to cough up money in exchange of the dropping of charges against them.
He also called on Malacañang to take swift and concrete steps in addressing the “laglag bala” issue that has become a cause of embarrassment for the country in the international community.
Pacquiao lamented reports that OFWs returning to their jobs abroad have fallen victim of the “laglag bala” extortion ring.
He supported calls for a legislative investigation of the issue, saying that there is an apparent necessity to pass new measures that would protect international and local travellers from airport-based extortion activities.
“Whether or not the laglag bala incidents are isolated cases is not an issue here. What is important is for government to quickly respond to this growing concern of our people, more particularly the OFWs,” Pacquiao said.
He added: “These activities are destroying the image of the country and the reputation of innocent victims.”
The boxer-turned-politician offered his help to victims of the extortion racket, saying he has assigned a team of lawyers to render free legal assistance.
The case of Hong Kong bound OFW Gloria Ortinez has caught the world famous boxer’s attention.
“She was released but the damage had already been done,” the lawmaker said.
The case of Ortinez, an OFW in the past 20 years, was also reported by the BBC news. She was arrested before boarding her flight to Hong Kong where she works.
“Is this what OFWs, known today as the new heroes of the country, deserve for their sacrifices,” said Pacquiao, a candidate for senator in the 2016 national elections.
Pacquiao said “tanim-bala” scam victims who want to avail of free legal services may contact lawyer Jojo Bondoc at telephone no. 09209211162. (Ben Rosario)