Honeymooner cleared over bullets in bag at Caticlan airport
ILOILO CITY—The Aklan Regional Trial Court (RTC) has dismissed for lack of probable cause the criminal charge against a honeymooner on Boracay Island believed to be a victim of the “tanim-bala (bullet-planting)” scheme.
In a four-page order released on June 22, Judge Jemena Abellar-Arbis granted the omnibus motion filed by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) in behalf of Jerome Sulit to quash the information.
Arbis said in her order that Sulit was not liable for violation of Republic Act 10591 (Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act).
“No matter how the bullets came into the possession of the accused, the court believes that there was no intent to possess and to use the bullets on his part,” according to the order.
Police arrested Sulit on April 28 at the Godofredo P. Ramos Airport in Barangay Caticlan, in Malay town as he and his wife Rochelle were about to board a plane for Manila.
Airport security personnel detained the couple after 14 bullets and a casing for a.22-caliber firearm were found inside a sling bag carried by Sulit.
The couple, who had just spent their honeymoon on Boracay Island, stayed overnight at the Malay police station where Sulit was detained. He was released the next day after posting a reduced bail of P40,000.
The couple denied owning the bullets and expressed surprise how these got into Sulit’s bag.
Lawyer Persida Rueda-Acosta, PAO chief, who represented Sulit, pointed out that no complaint should have been filed against Sulit because the mere possession of bullets without a firearm is not punishable by law and if it cannot be proven that there is “intent to possess and carry” these or a firearm.
Acosta pointed out in the motion that the couple had no previous involvement in illegal acts.
“They, in fact, have never been owners and have never even held any gun. They were also previously cleared to enter Boracay without any untoward incident,” according to the motion.
“Given the foregoing circumstances, there is no doubt that Jerome became the hapless victim of the ‘laglag-bala’ or ‘tanim-bala’ scheme,” according to the motion Acosta filed in behalf of her client.
She said the bullets should have been confiscated but the couple should have not been held at the airport.
“I cannot understand while these things happen after what has happened at the (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) in Manila. About 46 similar cases have already been dismissed,” she told the INQUIRER in an earlier telephone interview.
Acosta has represented several victims of the scheme at the NAIA which has caused apprehension among travelers, including tourists and overseas Filipino workers.
She said she represented Sulit because of the couple’s meager earnings. Jerome owns a variety store while his wife is a clerk in a private company.
“Their trip to Boracay was a gift from one of their wedding sponsors,” Acosta said.
In the court order, Arbis noted that the couple was newly married and “starting a new phase in their life.” They were also aware of the “tanim-bala” incidents in Manila and there were no untoward incidents on their way to Boracay.
The court also ordered the cancellation of the cash bond. CDG/rga
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