MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Monday pressed officials of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to fix what they termed as a simmering turf war between agencies manning the airport’s security amid suspicions that their rivalry had become a source of corruption and had compromised the country’s security and fight against human trafficking.
During the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing, Sen. Francis Tolentino told a Bureau of Immigration officer that he might face liability for human trafficking and usurpation charges for the purported exit of a group of foreigners who were flown out of the country without proper clearance from the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group (PNP-Avsegroup).
“Has this turned into a case of pricked egos after the PNP exposed this human trafficking that we are investigating here? And now you choose to ignore the law by depriving the PNP authority over airport operations?” Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, chair of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs, asked airport officials led by Naia general manager Cesar Chiong.
Dela Rosa expressed concern that the wrangling among government agencies in charge of airport security might lead to a slipup that will allow criminals and terrorists to carry out attacks in the airport.
The Senate blue ribbon committee wrapped up its investigation of Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, expose of the Feb. 13 incident that led to the alleged unauthorized departure of a group of foreigners.
Poe said a chartered plane left Naia for Dubai purportedly without a preflight inspection from the PNP-Avsegroup and carried passengers not listed on the manifest.
Sen. Raffy Tulfo said a “turf war” involving the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Quarantine, and other concerned agencies exposed the controversy.
‘Some got swindled’
“So it’s a good thing that some personalities got swindled in this [human trafficking] scheme; otherwise, we will not be [facing one another] here today,” he said.
Tulfo urged the Miaa to institute reforms in the handling of passengers by getting rid of “VIP and super VIP treatment” of passengers on chartered flights. For his part, Tolentino warned immigration officer Jeffrey Pinpin of a possible charge of usurpation of public functions after he escorted seven foreigners to their departing flight even if he was not on official duty.
“Knowingly, you admitted under oath — falsely that you were relieved and no longer had the authority. You could have been asked for your official papers and as to why you were still there,” he said
Poe said airport and immigration personnel found liable for the human smuggling incident at the Naia should face the consequences of their wrongdoings to serve as a deterrent for other government personnel.
“If nobody’s liable here, if you will not be charged, unscrupulous personnel will be emboldened to do things that they should not be doing,” she said.