We need bullet trains, not bullets in our airports!
WILL SOON FLOURISH - Wilson Lee Flores (The Philippine Star) - November 7, 2015 - 9:00am

Holy carabao! Thank goodness the country’s highest-ranking Catholic leader Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, D.D. has a good sense of humor and didn’t whack me with his mitre. 

During the Nov. 4 ceremonies of the 37th Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) at Star Theater, CCP Complex in Pasay City, standing in front of Cardinal Chito Tagle, I couldn’t restrain my journalist’s instincts: I asked him about the laglag bala (drop bullet) controversy that has even been picked up by BBC and CNN. The cardinal smiled and replied: “So far, hindi ko na nararanasan iyan (I haven’t experienced it).”

Exasperated that our politicos and bureaucrats have again bungled things in our mismanaged international airport, either through sheer ineptitude or sloth, I asked Cardinal Tagle a follow-up question: “What do you think should be the solution to this tanim bala (plant bullet) racket?” He laughed and said, “Ay naku, hindi ko alam (Oh my, I don’t know).”

Bite the bullet, purge our airport the solve problem without excuses!

Here are some “bullet” points: my thoughts on this bizarre and infuriating scam of planting bullets in bags or luggage of airport passengers for the purpose of extorting money mostly from OFWs:

• Tanim bala is not a joke. Why? Because as the old Tagalog folk song says: “Magtanim ay ‘di biro (Planting is not a joke).” Let us stop allowing scalawags and lazy politicos from making our main airport the laughingstock of the world! 

• Anak ng tipaklong (Son of a grasshopper)! Why don’t our top leaders just bite the bullet, use this tanim bala controversy as the trigger for a drastic and overdue top-to-bottom revamp of our grossly mismanaged Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and salvage the image of the Philippines? In public service, there should be no indispensable pals or kin when it comes to upholding meritocracy, professionalism, decency and common sense!

• Is it true another alternative name for the NAIA now is supposedly the “National Armaments Implantation Airport”? Data from the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group (PNP Avsegroup) said the number of travelers apprehended with bullets in their luggage this year so far is already the highest in four years. They recorded a total of 105 cases from January to November this year. Wow, this is already idiocy of the highest order!

• Nowadays, I miss the retired actor and ex-Senator Ramon Revilla, Sr., who used to portray the bullet-doging expert Nardong Putik. I could imagine him convening a Senate investigation of this tanim bala scam in aid of legislation.

• Why don’t our government leaders encourage more planting of corn, rice, vegetables and trees in proactive tanim agricultura or tanim puno campaigns, in order to expunge the sordid tanim bala scam from the news and turning this crisis into an opportunity? Look at Google Play Store: app developers should be resourceful enough to create fun game called Tanim Bala! Maybe next will be an indie comedy flick with this title?

• Our Asian neighbors like Thailand and Indonesia are now busy constructing their bullet or high-speed trains for faster socio-economic development. We, on the other hand, are in the news for planting bullets in our airports! President Noynoy Aquino recently asked what infrastructure projects we need next; I say we need modern bullet trains to cut the travel time from Metro Manila to the tip of north Luzon from 10 hours by bus or trucks down to only two hours!

• Who among our politicos shall be the first to pull the trigger? Who shall deliver the nation from the distress, stress and tragi-comedy of the bullet scam? Several of our top politicos are reputedly experienced at shooting bullets in the shooting range, from gun lover President Noynoy Aquino and cowboy-image Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to fire-breathing presidential aspirant Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.

• Top presidential contender Senator Grace Poe’s late dad the “King of Filipino movies” Fernando Poe, Jr. had a movie titled Isang Bala Ka Lang (You’re Just One Bullet). I recall vice presidential aspirant Senatror Chiz Escudero telling me his favorite movie scene by ex-Senator Lito Lapid was his splitting his gun’s last bullet into two by shooting it through a knife, thus killing two different villains (I asked Lapid where he got this idea; the then senator proudly told me he was inspired by a Voltes V cartoon!).

• Can we use the concept of “bullet time” to analyze and dissect the various surrealist, the often widely and wildly divergent statements of our politicos on the tanim bala scam by alleged corrupt scum in our airport?

• Remember the fascinating “bullet time” scenes in 1999’s The Matrix starring Keanu Reeves? Bullet time is described as “a visual impression of detaching the time and space of a camera (or viewer) from that of its visible subject, found in films, broadcast advertisements, and realtime graphics within video games. It is characterized both by its extreme transformation of time (slow enough to show normally imperceptible and unfilmable events, such as flying bullets) and space.” Maybe slowing down time would help spot those bullet planters!

• Bullets are sometimes used as anting-anting or amulets and talismans to ward off bad luck, violence or evil people. But is this local superstition widespread enough to explain so many cases of single bullets found in bag cases at our main international airport? Are the planted bullets part of an an anti-government conspiracy to embarass our leaders? Or is this a cop-out excuse to pass the buck instead of solving these irregularities?

• I believe tanim bala is just the tip of the iceberg: below it lies a moral malaise and the cynical ethics of some people in government. I believe material greed, lack of shame and corruption of conscience are the root causes of these repeated crimes. 

Whatever is behind these absurd bullet-in-bag cases, the bottom line is our government leaders should stop them by hook or by crook, and without excuses!

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Thank you to the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) for giving me the CMMA Award for “Best Opinion Column” for “Will Soon Flourish” on Nov. 4. 

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Thanks for your feedback! E-mail willsoonflourish@gmail.com or follow WilsonLeeFlores on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and http://willsoonflourish.blogspot.com/














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