THE Department of Justice (DoJ) has dismissed criminal complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against several employees and police personnel assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in the alleged “Tanim-Bala” scam victimizing unwary passengers.
The DoJ prosecutors said there was no probable cause to warrant the filing of charges against two personnel of the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) and four members of the Aviation Security Group (ASG) of the Philippine National Police, in connection with a complaint filed by an American missionary.
The complaining passenger had charged the OTS ad ASG personnel with attempted extortion. One of the accused admitted citing the figure of R30,000, but said it was only mentioned as the amount of the fine for illegal possession of a bullet. The DoJ cited the presumption of regularity in the functions of the airport personnel and while the passenger had been wronged, there was no probable cause to file a case against the accused. The lone NAIA case investigated by the NBI thus ended without reaching the courts.
Meanwhile, at the Godofredo Ramos Airport in Caticlan, Malay, Aklan, a case had been filed against a couple returning from a honeymoon in Boracay. The couple had been charged with illegal possession of ammunition after 14 bullets were found in the man’s sling bag during the screening of the passengers’ luggage.
The Aklan Regional Trial Court dismissed the charge, also for lack of probable cause. “No matter how the bullets came into the possession of the accused, this court believes there was no intent to possess and to use the bullets on his part,” the court ruled.
The “Tanim-Bala” incidents heaped a great deal of notoriety on the NAIA where many arriving foreign passengers, along with returning Filipino balikbayans, took to wrapping their luggage with plastic to keep anyone from planting bullets in them. After months during which some national government officials kept defending the airport apprehensions, an American missionary decided to file charges and the NBI stepped into the case and, after due investigation, decided to charge the six OTS and ASG personnel. It was this case which the DoJ dismissed for lack of probable cause.
Evidence to file a case against the accused was deemed insufficient.
In the wake of these two cases, the best course to take may be to heed the Aklan court’s ruling that mere possession of a bullet does not constitute a violation of the law. This is the same position taken by the Public Attorney’s Office, which has been helping the many victims of the “Tanim-Bala” scam through the legal complications of their cases.
The NAIA case may have been dismissed for lack of probable cause, but if the Aklan court ruling is accepted as a precedent, that should be effectively end the shameful “Tanim-Bala” episode in our airports.