WITH the rising number of alleged victims of the notorious “tanim bala” (bullet planting) scam at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), it is no surprise that this peculiar security threat has reached international headlines.
Just this year, the Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group (PNP-AVSeG) recorded 105 alleged “tanim bala” incidents, while the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) reported five cases in the past two weeks.
Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren said that she was warned by her Filipino-American friend that international travelers are targeted by Filipino airport security officials who plant live ammunition in their luggage.
“I know what you’re thinking: what is wrong with some people? My answer? I just don’t know,” Susteren said in her segment “Off the Record.”
Over the weekend, a video posted by Facebook user Shinjoy Martinez went viral. The video recorded a Japanese television program reenacting how bullets are planted into the luggage of unsuspecting passengers. The host of the show said that the “tanim bala” scam has been going on for years and that many Japanese nationals have become victims.
The extortion scheme, which involves airport security personnel who plant bullets in order to extort money from passengers caught with the bullet inside their luggage, has become so apparent and undaunted that tips on “how to avoid being a ‘tanim-bala’ victim” have circulated online.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has issued tips for air passengers to avoid falling prey to the “tanim bala” scam. CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio told ABS-CBN News that passengers are advised to strictly monitor all their luggage and never allow strangers to handle them. He said all zippers, pouches, and pockets of their luggage must be closed, locked and sealed so that if the seal gets broken, a passenger will immediately notice that his bag was opened without his permission.
For the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), it warned its staff “to keep your luggage with you, lock your luggage, and consider wrapping your luggage in plastic as an extra security measure” when leaving through the international airport.
This brouhaha is so ludicrous that for Atty. Joseph Plazo, here are ways to avoid being victim of ‘tanim-bala’ scam: Use hard-case luggage, avoid bags that have external pockets. Wrap the entire bag in cling wrap. Let the officials go through your bag—but only in the presence of witnesses, a lawyers, and official’s supervisor. You have the right to remain silent. And know your legal rights.
Meanwhile, NAIA airport screeners turned to divine intervention. Wearing pink armbands, the airport personnel attended a Mass on Friday, Nov. 6 to appeal for understanding in the midst of public outrage and ridicule.
“We have been pilloried, demonized and shamed by these allegations, which is why we are seeking divine intervention to spare us. There is no truth to the allegations,”  said Edgar Anas, national president of the Employees Association of Transport Security.
Malacañang acknowledged that the “tanim bala” controversy has been blown out of proportion and drew international ire. “Unfortunately, these are unintended consequences of the attention that this has generated,” spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
“We are hoping that the effects will not be lasting, will not have a long-term effect on what our country is trying to do to promote the Philippines as a tourist destination,” she said. Amid all the unwanted attention, Valte assured that the national government has taken steps to address the problem.
The proliferation of the “tanim-bala” cases requires urgent attention. All eyes are on the national government to assess the lingering problem and come up with effective solutions to alleviate the growing concern on the country’s airport security challenges. For now, those who have marked the Philippines as their next destination are asked to remain vigilant. (AJPress)

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