Escalation of bullet-planting cases baffles NBI | Inquirer News
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Escalation of bullet-planting cases baffles NBI

/ 12:39 AM November 06, 2015

An apparent escalation of incidents involving airline passengers found to be carrying ammunition in spite of a widely publicized uproar over the alleged “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) extortion scam has baffled agents of the National Bureau of Investigation.

There could be reasons other than extortion behind the scheme that had victimized mostly vulnerable elderly travelers and overseas Filipino workers at the four terminals of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), said Manny Eduarte, chief of the NBI antiorganized crime division.

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“The numbers are a fact, but we will look into the possibility that the syndicate operating inside the airport is also being used for another purpose,” said Eduarte, head of a special task force created by Justice Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Caguiao to look into the scam.

Eduarte said travelers who had been victimized by the tanim-bala scam could file their complaints in various Philippine embassies abroad.

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He said sworn statements executed in the embassies could be forwarded to the NBI for action.

Only two alleged victims of the scam had filed a complaint that the NBI was looking into, Eduarte said. Most of the other victims had left the country. Complaints filed before the travelers left were being looked into, he said.

“We want to assure the public that an investigation is underway and we intend to uncover all the members of the syndicate even after the 15-day period,’’ Eduarte said, referring to the deadline given by the justice secretary for the NBI to submit its report on its inquiry.

He explained that the high occurrence of the incidents in recent days was being looked into. “The number is real, but the frequency and the sudden escalation will also be investigated,’’ Eduarte said.

Initial investigations indicated that a well-organized group involving personnel of various state agencies operating at  Naia is behind the extortion scheme, an NBI source told the Inquirer earlier.

According to the source, some porters identify potential victims and accomplices in the security and immigration services take over inside the four Naia terminals.

The activities of the syndicate came to light last month when Gloria Ortinez, 56, a domestic helper in Hong Kong for 26 years, was arrested, detained and charged with carrying bullets in her luggage, despite her tearful denials. Her plight was caught by TV news cameras and went viral on social media.

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The source said that based on the records furnished by airport officials, close to 100 rounds of ammunition of various calibers had been seized from travelers since last January.

At least two alleged victims of tanim-bala have sought the help of the NBI: American missionary Lane Michael White and Maria Paz Triaz.

Lane, who was detained after arriving from the United States, was charged with illegal possession of ammunition but was freed on bail. Triaz was allowed to leave for Singapore after signing a waiver stating that bullet found in her bag was an amulet.

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