NBI files raps vs 4 policemen, 2 NAIA security screeners
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Task Force Talaba (Tanim-Laglag Bala) on Thursday filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) criminal complaints against two employees of the Office of Transportation Security (OTS) and four personnel of the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group (Avsegroup).
In a news conference, Justice Undersecretary Emmanuel Caparas identified the respondents as Maria Elma Cena and Marvin Garcia, both of the OTS; and Chief Insp. Adriano D. Junio, Senior Police Officer 4 Ramon A. Bernardo, SPO2 Rolando A. Clarin and SPO2 Romy U. Navarro, all of the Avsegroup.
The OTS is an attached agency of the Department of Transportation and Communications.
The DOJ listed the complainants as Eloisa S. Zoleta and her stepson, Lane Michael White, both of Barangay Merville, Parañaque City (Metro Manila).
White was apprehended for allegedly carrying a bullet at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 4 last September 17 and was charged in court.
His mother accused the police officers of trying to extort P30,000 to P80,000 from them.
The NBI used as evidence a footage showing Cena and Garcia handling White’s luggage at the X-ray machine area and calling his attention to alleged presence of a bullet in a bag that White was carrying.
Mother and stepson, however, refused to shell out money, causing White to be detained for several days at the airport jail.
The case reached the Pasay City Prosecutor’s Office.
Zoleta and her stepson were also invited to testify in a Senate hearing where she showed the video she took.
They personally filed the case at the Department of Justice on Thursday morning.
The two were accompanied by NBI agents and Zoleta’s husband, Michael Ryan White.
“We are very happy because the NBI has shown how we were made victims of these people,” Michael Ryan told The Manila Times.
The two OTS personnel were charged with violation of Article V, Section 38 (Liability for Planting Evidence) of Republic Act (RA) 10591, or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.
The four policemen were charged with violation of Article 293 (Robbery/Extortion) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), as amended, RA 7438, or An Act Defining Certain Rights of Person Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation and Duties of the Arresting, Detaining and Investigating Officers and RA 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The case stemmed from a complaint of Zoleta and her stepson that they were victimized by the tanim-bala (bullet-planting) extortion scheme at NAIA in Pasay City.
The NBI probers, in a letter to Prosecutor-General Claro Arellano, recommended that the case undergo preliminary investigation before the Justice department to enable the six respondents to give their side.
No syndicate involved
The DOJ earlier confirmed involvement of airport personnel in the alleged extortion scheme.
“The full force of the law would be brought upon you,” Caparas said in a news briefing.
He said while “corrupt” airport officials may be behind the scheme, “I believe, based on the data gathered, the NBI cannot rule that there is a syndicate behind these incidents.”
The bullet-planting scheme involves the sneaking in of live ammunition into bags of unsuspecting travelers by airport personnel for extortion purposes.
Caparas said the NBI task force interviewed several individuals and reviewed documents on reported cases over the past five years.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd as well as Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya earlier drew flak after they attempted to downplay the incidents by saying the cases were just isolated and that media hype blew the whole thing out of proportion.
The DOJ directed the NBI task force to continue with its probe to flush out other airport officials and personnel involved in the alleged extortion.
“This whole investigation is not over yet. [This will continue]. We [DOJ and NBI] have the same inclination to really find out how this particular incident came to be. We cannot say that the whole incident is [over],” Caparas said.
Police welcome probe result
The Avsegroup on Thursday welcomed the outcome of the NBI task force’s investigation.
“The Avsegroup will not tolerate any members who are involved in illegal activity,” the Avsegroup spokesman, Chief Insp. Samuel Hojilla said, adding that they respect the result of the inquiry.
Meanwhile, the lawyer of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), who was detained for several days at the Avsegroup office for allegedly carrying a bullet at the airport, is calling for the resignation of Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Jose Angel Honrado.
Lawyer Spocky Farolan insisted that Honrado should resign out of delicadeza [sense of propriety]to “allow a more competent and qualified manager to manage the airport.”
Farolan, a pro-bono lawyer of Gloria Ortinez, the OFW and alleged bullet-planting scam victim, believes that the scam at the NAIA involving OTS and Avsegroup personnel is a syndicate.
“It is impossible that Honrado did not know all about [the syndicate’s]operation. It’s just on the tip of his nose,” the lawyer said.
He told reporters that Ortinez and the other victims were not convinced with the result of the NBI investigation that there is no syndicate behind the scam at the premier airport.
The lawyer said the NBI should also include all officials of the Avsegroup and the OTS in the cases they filed against the two OTS personnel and four policemen.
He added that Honrando should not be spared from the case since “he is causing pain and anguish to the entire nation.”