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Airport scam victims not just numbers, Abaya told

Sen. Alan Cayetano on Friday denounced Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya for downplaying the alleged bullet-planting scam at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), and demanded that Abaya make a public apology to the victims.

“They are people, not statistics,” said Cayetano, an independent candidate for Vice President.

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“The statement comparing the number of victims to the total number of passengers at the Naia is offensive. These numbers have no lives, no children, no families, no work and no needs,” Cayetano said in an e-mailed statement.

Even if only 0.004 percent of the population is affected, the response of the government should be 101 percent, he said.

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In a press conference last Wednesday, Abaya said that the issue had been “blown out of proportion,” pointing out that the number of passengers who were caught with ammunition merely comprised 0.004 percent of the total number of passengers who pass through the Naia terminals.

Cayetano earlier filed a complaint against transportation officials, including Abaya, Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Angel Honrado, Office for Transportation Security administrator Roland Recomono, Philippine National Police director Pablo Francisco Balagtas for their failure to stop the extortion racket at the country’s premier gateway.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras confirmed that Malacañang is looking into the possibility that the “tanim-bala” (bullet planting) reports could be part of a demolition job against the Aquino administration, especially as elections are coming up.

Cayetano deplored administration officials’ attitude as well as the government’s overall “gross inaction” on cases reported by victims of the scam.

He decried the repeated denials made earlier by various government agencies concerned that such extortion activities were happening at the airport terminals.

“The are counting just the number of victims. What about the chilling effect experienced by all passengers, [whether] overseas Filipino worker or tourist. How can they say that only 0.004 percent are affected?” Cayetano said.

The senator cited the case of Gloria Ortinez, an overseas Filipino worker from Hong Kong who was arrested after airport officials allegedly found a rifle bullet in her bag. Ortinez was later released because of questionable evidence, but her employment abroad was threatened as she was forced to remain in the country while her case was pending.

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Meanwhile, another vice-presidential candidate, Sen. Francis Escudero, yesterday said the President should not wait for Abaya to resign and should instead give him the boot after his string of failures in areas under his care, including the tanim-bala scheme.

Even if the Aquino administration has less than a year to go, Abaya should be let go, said Escudero.

“I hope he [Mr. Aquino] sacks him because otherwise, for seven months we would have to endure the situation under [a transportation secretary] who has ne anything good in transportation and communication, nothing I have seen or felt,” Escudero told a press conference in Balanga, Bataan.

Meanwhile, ACT-CIS party list representative Samuel Pagdilao, a former police officer, said the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Law should be amended so certain passengers caught with bullets in their luggage may be spared from penalties.

Pagdilao, a senatorial candidate, said the phrase “willful or malicious possession of illegal ammunition” could be added to the law so that authorities would have the discretion to not file charges.

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TAGS: Alan Cayetano, bullet-planting scam, Gloria Ortinez, Jose Angel Honrado, Joseph Emilio Abaya, laglag bala, NAIA, Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Office for Transportation Security, Pablo Francisco Balagtas, Philippine National Police, Roland Recomono
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