NBI ordered to probe ‘tanim-bala’ scam
JUSTICE Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to launch an investigation into the “tanim bala” (bullet planting) scam that has victimized many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and travelers.
In an department order made public Tuesday, Caguioa ordered the NBI to form a seven-man Special Task Force which will be composed of operatives from the Anti-Organized and Transnational Crime Division (AOTCD) to conduct “a thorough, in-depth, and comprehensive investigation and case build-up” on the scam that has gained international attention.
Caguioa’s order came after 34-year old Josie Marie Paz Trias appeared before the NBI-National Capital Region past 3 p.m. Tuesday to complain that her 51-year old mother and 75-year-old grandmother have been traumatized after falling prey to the “tanim bala” scam.
She said the incident happened last Oct. 27 when she, along with her mother and her grandmother and uncle, went to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) 3 for their Cebu Pacific flight at 1:30 p.m. to Singapore.
They were accompanying their grandmother, who is suffering from leukemia and stage-four breast cancer to Singapore where she was scheduled to undergo a fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) panel test and to see a hematologist at the Singapore General Hospital.
At around 11 a.m., as their luggage was passing through the second x-ray, someone told her that one of the bags of her uncle was heavy and they had to transfer some of its contents to another bag.
“It was at that time when I lost sight of my bag because our focus was in removing some of the contents from one bag and transferring them to another bag. There is also that possibility that someone might have placed the bullet there without my knowing when I was in the airport because I checked my bag twice before the flight and that front pocket was empty,” Trias said.
Then, she said someone wearing light blue uniform has asked for the owner of the black bag at the x-ray machine. At first, she did not realize that the airport personnel was referring to her bag which she thought was colored gray.
When told to open the bag, she complied and unlocked the padlock securing the two big zippers. Then she removed the bag’s contents. When the female airport personnel checked on the small zipper without a padlock, the officer allegedly found a bullet and pulled it out.
Her uncle said it might have been a .38 caliber bullet.
“I expected that I would be left behind or I would be brought to jail. My mother was already turning red and her blood pressure might have risen while my ailing grandmother was already in a panic,” she said.
She was informed that an airport official would talk to her. She said she made inquiries about talking to a lawyer and going to the NBI which she said alerted the authorities.
“Let us just fix this,” she quoted an airport personnel as saying.
But before the senior official could say another word, Trias cut her off and said that she is willing to go to jail because she knows she is innocent.
She said that why she should put a bullet in her bag when their purpose of traveling was to go to the hospital for her grandmother.
The officer then offered to let her go and said they would just try to make it appear that the bullet was an “anting-anting” or amulet. Then she was made to sign their logbook with an already handwritten prepared report on the incident before she and her party were allowed to leave the country .
Trias returned to the country in the evening of Oct. 31, and reported the incident to the NBI Tuesday afternoon.
An NBI officer said they would take Trias’ statement and coordinate with the airport police and try to get a copy of any close circuit television (CCTV) video to identify the suspects.
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