THE resurgence of or bullet-planting, or the so-called “tanim-bala,” incidents at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport may be part of a plot against the government because of the May 9 elections, Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas said Tuesday.
“Without prejudging [the present case], it seems [this is] another unfortunate event that is being used for media purposes,” Caparas told journalists when asked about the case of spouses Esteban and Salvacion Cortabista who were detained after authorities found one bullet in one of their bags.
They denied owning the bullet and pointed out that their bags went through the x-ray machine at the first security check area without any hitches.
While they were detained at the airport, the Cortabistas claimed that airport wheelchair attendant Niño Namba demanded that they pay P50,000 so that they would be released and allowed to board their Korean Airlines flight to the US.
Another US-bound passenger witnessed the incident and corroborated the claim of the elderly couple, according to Chief Public Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta.
But Caparas appeared to be unconvinced and insisted that airport authorities have already implemented measures against such incidents.
“If you are talking about people planting bullets, airport security have stepped up considerately since the events last year. We have protocols already in place to protect the public from instances like this,” Caparas said.
“If I may say this one more time [about] these bullet-planting incidents: So many stories have emerged about harassment, extortion. I hope we no longer make this issue bigger,” the justice secretary said.
“Let us not suspect other people of wrongdoing if we do not have firm information about that. It is not fair to our authorities. Our airport and police authorities have made many good works,” Caparas said.
He noted that bullet planting issue at the airport is already a “dead issue.”
The airport security has already instituted measures and additional protocols to ensure that similar incidents that mushroomed last year will not happen again.
Besides, he said the public has been given enough warnings not to bring contraband inside the airport.
“I know that the people have already been warned not to bring bullets to the airport when you are leaving or even when you are arriving and I would like to think that we are more responsible than trying to tempt fate or try to bring and smuggle bullets this way,” he said.
“If you are are caught, we can’t do anything about that,” Caparas added.
Airport personnel have been slapped with criminal complaints at the DOJ while Lane Michael White, the US missionary caught with live ammunition in his baggage, has been absolved.
After several cases of bullet planting were exposed, the number of incidents at the airport declined for several months and only recurred last week.
Esteban Cortabista, 78 and his wife Salvacion 75 were caught with a live .38-caliber bullet in one of their bags at the departure area of Terminal 1. They were barred from boarding Korean Airlines flight KE 622 bound for Los Angeles via Seoul, South Korea.