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‘Tanim-bala’ issue calls for decisive gov’t action

A single bullet was allegedly found at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the luggage of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) from Ilocos Norte who was on her way back to Hong Kong. The Office of Transportation Security (OTS) at the airport claimed an x-ray of her luggage showed the bullet in her bag. She was detained by the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group.

The 56-year-old OFW, who had been working in Hong Kong for over 20 years, claimed that the bullet had been “planted” in her bag. She decided to fight back and hired a lawyer to fight her case. She was charged before the Pasay City prosecutor’s office.

It is difficult to understand how the OFW could be held for illegal possession of ammunition on the basis of one bullet claimed to have been found in her bag. What motive could she possibly have? There have been reports of foreign travelers who – facing the prospect of missing a flight — decided to simply pay the price.

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago and several other senators have called on the Senate to look into the matter. Instead of dismissing the Ilocos Norte OFW incident as an “isolated case,” Malacanang should take action before further damage is done to our “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign.

Sen. Ralph Recto proposed that Malacanang set up a “presidential action and complaints desk” at the airport, possibly under the existing office of the Presidential Action Center, where travelers can lodge complaints not only for alleged “tanim-bala” cases but also for other cases which inconvenience or defraud travelers. This airport complaints office, he said, could include representatives of the Commission on Human Rights and the Public Attorney’s Office.

The senator was particularly concerned about the case of the Ilocos Norte OFW who was detained and charged over one bullet allegedly found in her luggage. The nation’s OFWs remit some P1.3 trillion annually to the Philippines and the special complaints desk he proposes, he said, will assure them that Malacanang is out to protect their interests.

This coming Christmas season, many Filipinos now living in countries around the world plan to come home to join their families during the holidays. Some have already expressed concern about the “tanim-bala” incidents. This should be one more reason for swift and decisive government action to stop the scam.