4 more arrested at NAIA for carrying bullets in bags
MANILA, Philippines — Amid the paranoia over the so-called “tanim-bala (bullet-planting)” scheme at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), four persons, including three women and an elderly Filipino-American passenger, were taken into police custody on Tuesday for having bullets in their luggage.
Not one of them disputed the claim against them of illegally possessing bullets. It was only the daughter of 77-year-old Santiago Peñaflorida who claimed in disbelief that the ammunition found in her father’s bag had been planted.
Peñaflorida, according to investigators of the Aviation Security Group-National Capital Region (Avsegroup-NCR), was a passenger of a Philippine Airlines flight to Los Angeles.
He was stopped at around 6 p.m. at the initial security screening checkpoint of the NAIA terminal 2 after personnel of the Department of Transportation and Communications-Office for Transportation Security (DOTC-OTS) personnel saw on the x-ray scanner monitor what resembled a bullet inside his locked backpack.
His daughter, who accompanied him, went into hysterics and started accusing DOTC-OTS personnel of planting ammunition in the bag. They refused to open and have the backpack examined until after members of the media arrived.
Peñaflorida said that they had already come from the Iloilo Airport, where no bullet was detected.
When father and daughter finally agreed to open the backpack, it yielded a .32-caliber bullet. Peñaflorida, who conceded, was invited for questioning to the Avsegroup-NCR headquarters.
Earlier on Tuesday, Marilou Rose Espinola, 27, a Bacolod-bound passenger at the NAIA terminal 3, was investigated by the Avsegroup-NCR for also having ammunition in her bag.
A bullet, for a still undetermined caliber, was found at around 9:30 a.m. in her handcarried bag when it went through the x-ray scanner at the initial security screening checkpoint at the departure area’s gate 2.
She told Avsegroup-NCR investigators that she had placed the bullet in her bag and brought it along, after finding it in Quezon City, not knowing that it was prohibited at the airport.
At around 2 p.m., Rowena Otic, 33, of Nueva Ecija, who was sending off her Dubai-bound sibling, was intercepted at the NAIA terminal 3 for carrying two .38-caliber bullets, each placed in a separate red pouch.
She told reporters that she always carried the bullets as her protection against hexes or any other form of danger but only forgot to take them out of her handbag. “I also thought only passengers were inspected and arrested for having bullets,” she confided. The bullets, she added, were given to her by a healer.
Two hours later, Milagrosa Cadiente, 48, was stopped at the same gate 6 of the NAIA terminal 3 for having a 9mm-caliber bullet in her wallet. The bullet was encased in a red pouch. She said that she knew that bullets were banned from the airport but she forgot to take her “charm” out of her bag.
Cadiente said that she was supposed to fetch her employer, who came from Japan, from the airport. She called on lawmakers to amend the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and consider Filipinos’ adherence to tradition.
“It is just stupid to put people in jail for having one or two bullets. They have to understand that Filipinos carry them as charms,” she snapped.
The elderly Filipino-American and the three women are set to be charged with illegal possession of ammunition under the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act in the Pasay City prosecutor’s office. SFM
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