The dozen “tanim-bala” cases at the airports may just be the tip of the iceberg, according to the lawyer tasked by Rep. Manny Pacquiao to help them.
Jojo Bondoc, a member of Pacquiao’s legal team, said the scam may have been going on for years based on the thousands of text messages and phone calls they received since they posted their hotline number last Sunday.
Many, if not all, of the victims claimed they shelled out money to escape prosecution, and that extortion activities were not only limited at the airports, but also prevalent at the seaports, according to Bondoc.
“May mga natanggap kami, 2008 pa nangyari. But the common problem really is hindi nila nakilala o makilala yung nambiktima sa kanila. We need to have evidence to pinpoint these people kasi wala din tayong kaso kung walang identification,” said Bondoc.
He said many victims introduced themselves as overseas foreign workers (OFW) forced to pay up so they could proceed to their respective destinations. The payment ranged between P1,000 and P5,000.
Bondoc said they received a call from Saudi Arabia, alleging that he was threatened with detention upon his return.
“Pinagbantaan pa siya na pagbalik daw niya, babantayan siya at ibabalik sa NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) kasi around P3,000 lang ata ang naibigay niya,” he said.
Bondoc, however, decried the unwillingness of the victims to go forward and charge the culprits.
Another obstacle is the inability of the victims to identify the people involved in extortion activities, according to Bondoc.
The lawyer appealed to all travelers to identify each and every personnel that they encounter.
“Karamihan sa natanggap namin ay yung mga paalis na OFW’s. Dapat aware sila sa mga tao na supposedly nagbibigay ng assistance sa kanila,” he said.
Many of the feedbacks they received also came from victims at the seaports.
“Sa barko marami din palang kaso. Ang nangyayari ay aaregluhin na lang sila kasi hihingan ng kung magkano na lang ang nasa wallet nila,” disclosed Bondoc.
As this developed, at least 40 members of the Office of Transportation Security (OTS) are being investigated, but not necessarily in connection with “tanim bala”, according to Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) spokesman David de Castro. (DENNIS PRICEPE)