The embattled general manager of the nation’s premier airport on Thursday continued to insist that there is no syndicate operating at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Manila International Airport Authority chief Jose Angel Honrado–a former bodyguard of President Benigno Aquino 3rd–in a televised interview said they have not found anything solid to validate allegations that a syndicate is behind the bullet-planting extortion racket that has generated a firestorm against the government.
“So far, we don’t have evidence indicating that syndicates are working at the airport,” he added. “But opportunists, yes.”
Honrado’s TV interview came a day after his boss, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, said the alleged incidents, which have since been infamously called “laglag-bala” or “tanim-bala,” appear to have been “blown out of proportion.”
Abaya earlier said initial investigation showed that no syndicate is behind the controversy. “So far we have not established any facts to show syndicates planting [the bullets but]any personnel involved will be pursued.”
Abaya and Honrado and the chiefs of the Office of Transport Security and the police Aviation Security Group are facing an administrative complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly not lifting a finger to stop the extortion racket at the country’s airports.
Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. joined mounting calls for Honrado’s immediate removal for allegedly allowing the scheme to go on.
Marcos’ statement followed a public outcry against the alleged sneaking in of bullets into the bags of unsuspecting passengers, particularly overseas workers and balikbayan (returning Filipinos) to extort money from them.
He echoed the gist of the administrative complaint filed by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption chairman Dante Jimenez that Honrado should be made accountable based on the principle of command responsibility.
“He should be fired immediately, he’s clearly incompetent. He should never have been put in that job in the first place,” Marcos told reporters.
“If it was up to me he would never have gotten that job. Bakit mo ilalagay dyan, wala naman syang karanasan dyan? Hindi naman nya alam ang trabaho [Why was he placed there, he has no experience in running airports. He doesn’t know the job],” he said.
Honrado is a retired military general who was President Aquino’s security aide when he was still a candidate in 2010. It has repeatedly been said in earlier media reports that Aquino credits Honrado for saving his life when the then-Presidential Security Group captain led a squad that rushed to his aid when his convoy was waylaid in the early hours of the 1989 coup attempt against his mother, then-President Corazon Aquino.
“If you appoint somebody to a certain post, you must be confident that he could do the job. You don’t just name somebody to just because you owe him a debt of gratitude. Repay your debt of gratitude some other way, not at the expense of the people,” Marcos said in Filipino.
Malacanang spokesman Edwin Lacierda on also Thursday berated Marcos for his statement and turned the tables on the lawmaker by bringing up the Marcos family’s alleged sins against the people.
“Unlike Senator Bongbong Marcos who continues to deny the abuses of martial law, corruption, impunity and human rights violationsthat occurred under the Marcos regime of which he was a part as a government official, the President recognizes that there is a problem,” Lacierda said in a text message to reporters.
He retorted that the Aquino administration is taking the issue seriously, contrary to the lawmaker’s assertion.
“The administration is addressing this issue and taking concrete steps so that travelers will have peace of mind and no passenger will be subjected to unfair prosecution,” the Palace official said.