DOTC press conference, on the alleged NAIA bullet-planting

Read Full transcript of Wednesday's DOTC press conference, on the alleged NAIA bullet-planting:

Secretary Jun Abaya: In the past few weeks, we have heard of allegations of extortion on the basis of bullets being found in the luggage of passengers inside NAIA.
Likewise, allow me to share with you some of the cases we’ve found since 12 September 2015 when we first heard of reports of these allegations.

Also, read salient points, HERE!

Just to cite some: Two turned out to be about passengers who admitted to bring ammunition. They themselves admitted that they were in possession and did not deny that it wasn’t theirs. Let’s take for example a Japanese national, who was I think covered by media, admitted that he had taken two bullets. He came from a firing range two days prior to his departure, took two bullets as souvenirs, left it in his jacket. Unfortunately, he forgot to clear his belongings. The jacket was packed. Eventually entered the airport and he was apprehended for possession of a live ammunition.
Likewise, I think this was during the day that I inspected for Undas. There was a passenger who admitted that he borrowed a baggage from an AFP officer. A bullet was left for one reason or another. As we know AFP officers are very much accustomed or used or part of their work is handling of firearms and ammo. Unfortunately, the bag wasn’t cleared and ended up in the airport and appropriate legal action had to be taken.
Likewise, there were two on the same day, there was also a mother who accompanied her daughter OFW that upon inspection and questioning admitted that she was the one who packed the baggage and truly believed she was the one who placed a live ammo into the bag of her daughter because she did believe that this was an amulet. This was a protection for her daughter when she leaves. So this was not uncontested. Kaagad sinabi sa investigation na nakuha natin. Again, we just had to act on such situations.
Likewise, we know that there are also two cases where there are allegations of extortion. I think this was with Mr. Red. I forgot his name, De Guzman and Mr. White, the missionary.
So we are currently investigating at least on the Red de Guzman case. Cases have been filed against the OTS [Office for Transportation Security] personnel because clearly there were violations of procedures and that is currently … once that is disposed off, we will clearly show to media the results of that investigation.
And whenever we have this kind of grave accusations, it is incumbent upon us, government and  authority, to look into the accusations and to make a determination of what actually happened. We cannot let these incidents slide.
Number one, at stake is the safety and peace of mind of every Filipino. Number two, any incident like this must impel government to examine its procedures, identify weaknesses, and come up with solutions and innovations, so that the specific units tasked with securing the safety of the Filipino people can fulfill their mission. We can take the best equipment and technology, but the strongest and weakest link will always be human intervention. And number three, because our being upgraded after losing FAA Category 1 status was a hard fight.
So let me emphasize: We are trying to balance three priorities. There are things that have to be weighed and should be emphasized without any of the three being compromised. First, the responsibility of government to ensure the security of its people against threats brought about by terrorism and other illegal activities. Second, it is also important that our Bosses’ rights are not trampled upon and that they are not taken advantage of. And third, we cannot simply demonize the people to whom we entrust our safety.
To this end, let me assure the public that investigations have been ongoing since Day 1; and now, we are in possession of various data to enable us to make the appropriate response.
Just last night, I was made aware of a complaint filed at the NBI by a certain Maria Paz Trias of an incident that happened in 27 October.
I immediately called up Usec. Recomono of OTS. He directed two of our screeners to be relieved of post, and investigation immediately started. We likewise gathered the reports of the OTS on duty and now we’re currently reconciling the data. And we assure NBI complete cooperation and support in whatever data personnel that they have to interview and whatever circumstances was happening at that time.
Now, let me walk you through some basic facts so we could situate ourselves on passengers, volume of passengers flowing through our terminals. Every year, millions go through our airport. For example, in 2014, there were around 53.3 million passengers that went through Philippine airports; of that number, 34.2 [million] pass through the NAIA complex, the terminals 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Those who have travelled have experienced passing through 2 steps of security procedure before boarding the flight. As you know, karamihan naman sa inyo bumiyahe, there is a screening checkpoint upon entry of the gate to the terminal and a final screening of the same equipment, metal detector, X-ray scanners before we eventually go to our particular gates. Likewise, we would like to share with you a chart generated from OTS data where we could see the bullet-related incidents. I think some of you have copies. Clearly, you’ll see there that since 2012, we had 1,214 bullet/ammunition-related incidents. Mixture na ‘to ng empty shells, souvenirs, necklaces, and live ammunition. So all encompassing anything related a partial component or a live ammo are all encompassed dito sa incidents na ito. So 2012, we have had and detected 1,214. This is nationwide data: 2013, 2,184, the highest in four years; 2014, 1,813; and 2015, as of October, this is partial, 3/4 of the year, it is 1,394. If you look to the data, we cull out, ‘di ba? Kompyutin natin ‘yung sa NCR. It’s not obviously in your data, but NCR will show you that in 2012, it was 972. These are the four terminals. I’m just adding ‘yung data for the terminals of 1, 2, 3, 4 of NAIA. 2012, NAIA is 977; 2013 is 2,037; in 2014, it is 1,510; in 2015, it is 1,212. There’s actually a  declining trend for the NAIA airport. But still, we are the numbers of averaging around 1,500 annually for the past four years. So these are incidents for ammo where there are souvenirs, necklaces, “anting-anting” or talismans, and live ammo.
And to give you a perspective: If you have 34.2 million passengers who pass through NAIA terminals; and there are 1,510, let’s say 2014, who were caught with ammunition, and you do the math, then the percentage of passengers with ammunition versus the total number is 0.004 percent. That’s 0.004 percent.
If you take it from departing passengers alone, dahil karamihan dito are really departing passengers because the arriving passengers are not screened on their way out of personal baggages, it is 0.008%.
So it appears that cases have been blown out of proportion. Let us be mindful that when allegations cast aspersion on all, it is not far-fetched to think that some of those tasked with our security will suffer from lower morale. This would be a disservice to all.
But again, although we are talking about statistics in the decimals, let me emphasize that a single case of any passenger wrongly charged, extorted upon, victimized by planting, unjustly charged in court, is unjust. It is not something that government should ignore. It is something that government should put full force and attention to. And likewise, it is a great concern for the state. The numbers don’t spell it. A single case of injustice merits full government attention.
So we are ferreting out the truth to fix lapses, and restore the confidence of the public in our airport security staff and police, and likewise, restore the morale of our security personnel as well.
So now allow me to give the floor to the Administrator of OTS Roland Recomono, who will now walk you through these figures that I talked about. Although I talked about it a few, but there are other information that Usec. Recomono could share.
OTS Usec. Roland Recomono: Magandang umaga sa ating lahat. The chart that we are holding, as mentioned earlier by Sec. Abaya, are figures; and these figures represent the number of incidents, number of incidents intercepted as far as bullets are concerned. It also represents the number of persons that were caught regardless of the number of bullets or ammo that was in his or her possession when it was discovered.
The process is if one passenger is caught, there is a determination of if the bullet is live or not. If the bullet is not live, we confiscate it and file the necessary documentation. This is for purposes of recording but if it’s live, the law is clear, you will face prosecution in accordance with our law. This is what we have found so far. Cases of Filipinos with bullets in their possession are not uncommon. Hindi po ito masasabi nating very strange.
As early as 2008, a number of Filipinos were intercepted at NAIA carrying bullets, or ammunition, which turned out to be normally, again, based on our records, talismans, or anting-anting. I’m sure you are very familiar as far as talisman or anting-anting. Ito ‘yung sinasabi nilang panakot daw nila sa aswang o sa barang.
Bullets are considered “live” when their components are complete, and these are the elements: case, o ‘yung tinatawag po nating shell; slug, the one that the projectile;  powder charge, and primer. When a passenger is found with a live bullet, it is confiscated. Kinukuha po ‘yun kasi hindi po ito puwedeng dalhin sa loob ng eroplano. He is detained and if evidence is strong, a case will be filed against that particular person found with that particular item in possession.
Most anting-antings, however, only consist of the case o ‘yun pong tinatawag nating shell. Again: In situations like this or in cases like this, again, the bullet is confiscated or that particular shell is confiscated, and the passenger is allowed to continue with his travel.
To ensure that there are no opportunities for the planting of evidence or extortion, we have taken the following steps po:
In the past po, ganito ‘yung procedure of screening the passenger and at saka po ‘yung ating mga luggage na dala:
  • Once a suspicious item is flagged or detected by the X-Ray machine being operated by our X-Ray operator, the image is shown to the passenger. The image is shown to the passenger indicating that particular suspicious item.
  • Then, the baggage inspector will determine who is the owner of that particular baggage which contains the suspicious item. In this case po, kung ‘yun po ay bullet, ang tawag po kasi namin dun we have to identify the owner of the bag. What does this mean? It means, if the passenger is identified that he or she is the owner the bag, he will be the one to bring the bag to the baggage inspection table. And then the baggage inspector will ask the passenger permission to open the bag or the luggage.
  • If the passenger gives permission or gives his consent to open the bag, that is the only time that the baggage inspector can proceed with his inspection to open and inspect his luggage—always po in the presence of the passenger.
  • Should the passenger refuse, he or she will not be allowed to proceed either inside the airport or inside the pre-departure or inside the aircraft.
Now, because ‘yung mga nangyari po recently, we have revised these particular security incidents. Kasi po ang nangyari, ang pinagsususpetsahan na is ‘yung mga screeners natin po. So binago namin ‘yun to more or less remove that particular insinuation.
  • Effective late September this year, all baggage inspectors are strictly hands-off. Meaning to say hindi na po nila hinahawakan. Only the passenger touches the baggage, removes the items within, and inspects the compartments of the bag to be able to locate that particular suspicious item.
  • Second, additional CCTV installation began last Monday, November 2 po ‘yun. These CCTVs were the ones procured by DOTC. There will be additional CCTVs per station, and footage can be used as evidence should it be necessary. Numerous CCTV’s will enhance our ability to monitor 24/7 and help in ferreting out the truth. And this is aside from … the CCTVs will also serve as a deterrent to those with nefarious plans and reduce opportunities for extortion by scalawags.
  • Third, even before any incidents were reported, OFWs and their families receive information about prohibited materials in pre-departure seminars conducted, which began as a joint initiative between OTS and OWWA.
Now, once it’s clear that it’s a live bullet, meaning to say, the suspicious item that was detected and after inspection, it now becomes clear that it’s live bullet, the procedure is the screener or the baggage inspector hand it over to the Philippine National Police, the Aviation Security Group po.
Today, we have Gen. Balagtas, the director of the PNP Aviation Security Group to brief us or to brief all of you on this. Thank you.
PNP Aviation Security Chief Francisco Balagtas: Good morning everyone, I am Chief Supt. Francisco Balagtas. On the PNP obligation, it is to file cases against those found with live ammunition. We have a law that covers ammunition: the Law on Illegal Possession of Firearms and Ammunition, or RA 10591 – An Act Providing For A Comprehensive Law On Firearms And Ammunition And Providing Penalties For Violations Thereof  as approved on May 2013.
RA 10591 referring to ammunition: it has to be complete unfixed unit consisting of a bullet, gunpowder, cartridge case, and a primer or loaded shell for use in any firearm.
RA 10591: Penalties for unlawful possession of Ammunition
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