‘Tanim-bala’ victims detail extortion try at Naia in Senate probe
Victims of the alleged “tanim-bala” scam at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) recounted during a Senate investigation on Thursday how airport security personnel tried to extort money from them and made them admit to owning the bullets found in their luggage.
Lane Michael White with his father Ryan and stepmother Eloisa Zoleta faced the joint hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee and committee on public services and narrated how they fell victim to the racket.
“We came to start a missionary trip until that happened. Now our plans are on hold,” Ryan, a preacher, told the committee.
Eloisa said that from the United States and China, they flew to the Philippines on Sept. 17. Their flight to Coron, Palawan, however, have been rebooked the following day supposedly due to flight restrictions. She noted that their luggage had been screened when they checked in for their connecting flight.
After spending a night in a hotel, Eloisa said they returned to Naia Terminal 4 the following day.
“Sa initial screening, that’s when it all started,” she said.
Lane said Maria Elma Cena and Marvin Garcia, airport baggage inspectors, instructed him to bring his bag to the scanner several times.
“What happened was when his luggage went to the X-ray (machines), all the security personnel were on the machine and they were looking at the screen. Doon na po sinabi sa kanya na may nakita daw po sa bagahe nya. Pero hindi po pinakita yung X-ray sa amin. Hindi din po sinabi kung ano, sabi lang po meron lang nakita,” Eloisa said.
While the inspectors while checking Lane’s bag, Eloisa said she approached Cena and asked what they were looking for so they could help find it.
“And then sinabi nya, no. You guys have to stand back, and don’t touch the luggage,” she said.
Eloisa said she phoned her brother to report the matter and her brother told her to take a video of what was happening.
She said the supposed bullet was only discovered after several inspections.
After that, Eloisa said they were turned over to a certain SPO2 Rolando Clarin, who asked her to stop taking videos.
Clarin later told her to convince her son to admit to owning the bullet.
“Sabi po sa akin ni SPO2 Clarin, e ayaw pang aminin ng anak mo e. Bakit hindi mo na lang paamin sa anak mo? Sabi ko, huwag po kayong ganyan. Bakit hindi po natin sya tanungin kung kanya po yun o hindi para malaman nyo ang totoo?” she said.
She said she relayed the police officer’s question to Lane.
“‘Lane, the police officer wanted to know if the ammunition is yours,’ and then Lane said, ‘the luggage is mine but the ammunition, the bullet isn’t.’ That what he said,” Eloisa said.
She said another police officer, a certain Junio, came to them and asked them what happened.
After recounting the incident, Eloisa said the police officer told her: “Usually naman pinapalampas namin ang mga nagdadala ng ganyan, sinasabi naming anting-anting pero dito kasi pag inareglo natin yan dito, P30,000, pero ‘pag napasa sa headquarters P80,000.”
Gloria Ortinez, who also fell victim to the scam on Oct. 25, said she was asked to admit to owning a bullet that was found in her luggage while she was on her way to Hong Kong.
Ortinez said the security personnel at the airport were insisting that the red pouch supposedly containing a bullet was hers.
“Dinidiin nila na aminin ko. Bakit ko aaminin e hindi naman galing sa akin?” she said.
“Sabi nila galing daw sa akin yung red pouch, e hindi naman sa akin,” Ortinez added. RC
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