PAO opens hotline for bullet-planting victims
MANILA, Philippines — The Public Attorney’s Office opened its hotline (02-929-9436) to victims of the “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) scheme in airports.
PAO chief Persida Acosta said the agency could send lawyers to help those stopped at the airport for allegedly carrying bullets in their luggage.
Acosta warned that those planting or inserting evidence could be charged with “incriminatory machinations” punishable by up to six months in jail under Article 363 of the Revised Penal Code while the planting of ammunition could be punished with up to 40 years in jail under Section 38 of Republic Act No. 10591 or the the Comprehensive Firearms Act.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines called on the government, on Monday, to undertake a “more effective, forceful action” against those responsible for the “tanim-bala” scheme in the country’s airports.
The CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People called on airport authorities to investigate those who have been tasked with inspecting baggage, specifically those who apprehended the “bullet carriers.”
“They should look into their work records and lifestyle,” the commission’s chair, Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, said in a statement.
He called on the government “to put an end to this shameful practice; investigate and punish those who are behind this.”
“Tanim-bala is a big thing to our overseas Filipino workers. It should be a big thing for our country’s reputation because it gives lie to the tourism slogan, because there is no fun in extortion,” the bishop added, lamenting that airport authorities seemingly have been belittling the incidents.
The prelate said the ‘tanim-bala’ incidents must have been perpetrated by people knowledgeable about the the airport and its security setup.
“’Tanim-bala’ is obviously a scam, perhaps operated by an internal airport ‘syndicate’ of security and lay personnel. It takes advantage of a law that prohibits and penalizes the bringing out of the country such restricted items as bullets. While the law may have the welfare and security of the country at heart, it had been exploited also by those who have extortion in their hearts,” he said.
Santos said he was saddened that primary victims were the “hardworking and unsuspecting overseas Filipino workers” as well as tourists and foreigners.
“Our OFWs travel to go to foreign countries to earn a living for their families back home. Tourists are our visitors and deserving of our hospitality. Why do we allow them to become victims of this criminal act right in our airports?” he asked.
The bishop reminded the OFWs “to be ever vigilant and watchful” and offered prayers to those who have been victimized by the scam or those at risk of being victimized.
Santos suggested that travelers who thought the bullets were amulets should just be let go.
“Can’t the authorities confiscate them in the same way as knives and nail cutters and then let the carriers go? Perhaps it is time for our lawmakers to revisit this law to make it clearer and more effective in warding off the real security threats to our country and not be used by criminal-minded people to prey on the innocent,” he suggested. SFM
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