American asks judge to determine probable cause in illegal bullet case
MANILA, Philippines — The legal counsel of an alleged “tanim bala” (plant-a-bullet) victim and American missionary has filed a motion for judicial determination of probable cause.
During a hearing on Wednesday at the Pasay Regional Court Branch 119, Ernesto Arellano, the lawyer of 20-year-old Lane Michael White told Judge Pedro de Leon Gutierrez that White’s camp was withdrawing the earlier motion for the reinvestigation of the case.
“We filed this motion for judicial determination of probable cause so that the judge will now be the one who will determine if there is really probable cause for filing the charge,” Arellano explained.
He added that this move was deemed “more practical and faster” by his client.
“[The proceedings] are taking too long for them. They are already financially dislocated. They came here to set up an outreach for their church but this is what happened, a very unfortunate one,” the lawyer added.
White, a Florida native, was arrested on Sept. 17 at the NAIA Terminal 4 departure area, along with his father, an American pastor, and his Filipino stepmother, as they were supposed to board a plane to Coron, Palawan.
The three came from the United States and had a connecting flight from China to the Philippines.
Airport baggage inspectors Maria Elma Cena and Marvin Garcia reportedly found the .22 cal. bullet in White’s possession after his baggage went through an X-ray scanner of the domestic terminal.
In filing the motion, Arellano argued that it was clearly a “tanim bala” scam since the airport personnel clearly placed the ammunition into the foreigner’s luggage.
“We believe that the bullet was locally made,” added the lawyer, noting that if White was really carrying the piece of metal, it would have been detected by the international screening counters they earlier passed.
He added that they also submitted to the court video footages of the incident showing that White’s luggage went through the X-ray machine more than five times before the bullet was seen on the screen.
“Garcia was also using his bare hands when searching the luggage instead of letting the owner unpack his belongings to check for the suspicious item,” Arellano added.
White’s camp also earlier claimed that SPO2 Rolando Clarin of the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group (Avsegroup) asked from them P30,000 in exchange for the American’s freedom.
But since White did not agree to give the amount, he was detained for six days at the Avsegroup detention cell. He was able to get out of jail after posting a P40,000 bail.
Asked what White would do if the case against him was dropped, Arellano said he might file a case against the airport personnel.
“But now he and his family are hoping that the Philippine government will do something about this “tanim bala” scheme because many foreigners will take this example as a consideration in investing money in the country,” added White’s lawyer.
He noted that the government should give visiting individuals in the Philippines an assurance that they would be treated fairly in the country.
“This is what we want to deliver to the government. Take immediate action now,” Arellano said.
Gutierrez gave the Avsegroup personnel’s lawyers 10 days to comment, then another five days to Arellano to reply.
“After that we will see if the case will be dismissed and take action against them [airport personnel],” the judge added. SFM
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