Airport chief not resigning

Rudy Santos - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Jose Angel Honrado yesterday maintained he is not resigning from his post due to the tanim-bala or bullet-planting scheme at the airport.

Honrado also denied rumors that he is planning to tender his resignation after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) released their findings of an extortion racket at the airport where six airport personnel were charged.

Critics slammed the NBI findings indicating there was no syndicate behind the scheme and only a few officials were involved.

The tanim-bala extortion schemes involve security officials and personnel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) demanding money from passengers in exchange for dropping criminal charges for possession of a bullet.

Public outrage prompted the NBI to step into the probe while airport authorities continued its investigation that led to the suspension and dismissal of some personnel from the Office of Transportation Security (OTS), the agency principally blamed for the irregularity.

The NBI filed charges against Marvin Garcia and Ma. Elma Cegna of the OTS and Police Insp. Adriano Junio, Senior Police Officer 4 Ramon Bernardo, SPO2 Romy Navarro and Rolando Clarin, all of the Aviation Security Group.

Department of Justice Undersecretary and spokesman Emmanuel Caparas said the NBI task force found several personnel of the OTS have been involved in the bullet-planting incidents based on documents and interviews.

Spocky Farolan, the lawyer of Gloria Ortinez, the overseas Filipino worker who was among the reported victims of the tanim-bala scheme, questioned the findings of the NBI declaring the absence of a syndicate behind the extortion racket at the airport.

Farolan called on the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct a separate probe and look into possible liabilities of ranking airport officials, including Honrado, for his failure to stop the extortion activities at the NAIA.

He said the ombudsman should also look into how Honrado allocated MIAA’s intelligence and confidential funds which could have been used to investigate initial complaints of extortion attempts.  

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. agreed with Farolan that the ombudsman should investigate Honrado and the other airport officials for possible liability in the bullet-planting scheme.

“By saying there is no syndicate, the NBI report practically exonerated ranking airport officials such as Honrado from any culpability in the tanim-bala scheme. I think it’s time for the ombudsman to conduct its own investigation,” Marcos said.

Marcos said the NBI’s findings were suspicious because they seem to concur with the statement earlier made by President Aquino downplaying the reports of an organized tanim-bala syndicate.

“Malacañang’s penchant for immediately coming to the defense of its allies, friends or relatives hinders the effort to rid our airports of scalawags preying on the weak, elderly and our overseas Filipino workers,” Marcos said.

Malacañang said the government is ready to provide assistance for victims of the bullet scam but granting them compensation would have to be subjected to discussions.

In the case of Ortinez, the Department of Labor and Employment extended assistance by reaching out to her agency and employer to explain the situation since her job in Hong Kong was placed in peril, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

Valte said if they did not succeed in placing Ortinez back to her job, the DOLE would help her find other employment.

“It was good…her employer agreed to take her back. So, in certain instances or since this is case-to-case basis, the government did reach out,” Valte said.

Sen. Francis Escudero said victims of the scheme were left to endure delays and miss their flights and forced to shell out money for the supposed offenses at the airport.

“The government could at the least give them financial aid as a way of compensation,” Escudero said.

Escudero said compensating the victims would also help redeem the government from the global humiliation caused by the scandal, which got wide play on international media.

It would also signal government’s seriousness in addressing safety issues confronting air travelers in the country, he said.        

MIAA spokesman David de Castro said Honrado is focusing on improving the services at the airport.

“The airport management has made great strides in developing the NAIA and it will not allow current setbacks to compromise this. The riding public can expect that more will be done for them by the airport authority in delivering better public service,” De Castro said. –Marvin Sy, Aurea Calica


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