Palace vows to stop ‘laglag-bala’ scam
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - November 1, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang has vowed to stop the laglag-bala or bullet-planting scam reportedly being perpetrated at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminals, with President Aquino ordering an investigation.

In the latest incident, a 65-year-old grandmother departing for Singapore yesterday morning was accosted after a bullet was allegedly found inside her carry-on bag.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said both Aquino and Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya had instructed airport authorities to look into the report.

“What is happening right now is lamentable,” Lacierda told radio station dzRB on Saturday.

Abaya said additional closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras were placed inside the airport premises to better monitor the situation.

Lacierda said the public must also be more mindful of their suitcases. 

“We should make sure that we pack our belongings...(to) rule out any proof that the passenger is responsible (for existence of bullets if ever),” Lacierda said.

Perpetrators of the scam reportedly work by extracting a bullet or two, which they themselves planted, from the passengers’ luggage and then subject them to various intimidations to force them to pay up.

He stressed carrying other people’s belongings must also be avoided.

A syndicate working in NAIA is allegedly behind this scam and Lacierda said they were seriously looking into this allegation.

Lacierda also said he understood why some passengers were apparently getting paranoid over this incident but he assured them that authorities were working to address the situation.

“We’re looking at the process. We’re looking at how it happened. We’re looking at the personnel involved... We want to take away that fear from them. We will ensure the safety of each and every passenger who uses our terminals,” he said.

Lacierda also said he would inform Abaya and Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Jose Angel Honrado of other concerns such as the reported cartel of taxis outside the airports and the one involving foreigners caught sneaking illegal drugs.

Doting grandma

Senior Police 0fficer 1 Godofredo Sugcang of the Aviation Security Office identified the Singapore bound passenger as Nimfa Fontamillas, of Cavite, who was accompanied by her daughter Menchie Tan.

Both were scheduled to board a Tiger Air flight to Singapore at 6:05 a.m. Sunday when they were held for questioning at around 5:34 a.m. at the final security check at NAIA Terminal 1.

Fontamillas was asked by X-ray screener Ronillo Salanga to view the X-ray monitor where the image of a bullet appeared inside the red shoulder bag of the grandmother.

Fontamillas become emotional as she threw her bag away from the inspection table and allegedly even said to Office of Transportation Security (OTS) members, “you are not just a planter but a magician too,” an OTS source said.

The sources said Fontamillas also refused to open the bag.

Tan also said lawyer Clint Estandarte will represent her mother in the proceedings.

The bag was intact and no one was allowed to touch or to examine it until the lawyer arrived.

Tan told The STAR that she had invited her mother to Singapore to watch her 11-year-old son play as a member of the Philippine football team for the Singa Cup on Nov. 2-6, 2015 at The Cage Sports Park in Singapore.

At around 11:15 a.m., Estandarte arrived and was asked to open the shoulder bag in the presence of OTS, police, Fontamillas and Tan.

Estandarte said the main zipper of the handcarry bag had a padlock while the side pocket zipper was sewed.

He told Fontamillas to unlock the padlock of the main zipper to remove all the things inside the bag and later passed it again in the X-ray but the image of a bullet still appeared inside the bag.

Estandarte used a cutter to open the sewed zipper of the bag’s side pocket and he found a 9 mm bullet inside.

He told airport reporters that he could not give any information regarding Fontamillas’ situation but definitely she will post bail when the police Aviation Security Office subjects her for inquest at the Pasay City Prosecutor’s Office. With Rudy Santos, Paulo Romero, Edith Regalado

ABAYA AND MANILA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AUTHORITY ACIRC AQUINO AND TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY JOSEPH EMILIO ABAYA AVIATION SECURITY OFFICE BAG CAGE SPORTS PARK CLINT ESTANDARTE EDITH REGALADO ESTANDARTE FONTAMILLAS LACIERDA
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