ANGKLA Party-list Rep. Jesulito A. Manalo has called for the designation of special prosecutors at airports as one immediate mitigating step to help resolve the raging “laglag bala” controversy.
“In the meantime that the truth behind the ‘laglag bala’ or alleged ‘dropping of bullets in luggage extortion scheme’ is being ferreted out, it is practical to assign these prosecutors to help resolve other possible on-site incidents in the future,” Rep. Manalo said.
The initiative is contained in House Resolution No. 2502, authored and by Hon. Manalo November 10, Manalo, calling for a congressional inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the appropriate measures that may be implemented by the Department of Justice (DOJ), in coordination with the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the Manila Airport Authority (MIAA).
“It is strongly urged that in order to address the cloud of doubt hovering over arrests of individuals allegedly possessing ammunition, appropriate legal processes be made readily available for these suspects to determine if, under the surrounding circumstances, there is probable cause for those arrested to remain under custody and be correspondingly charged in Court or to be released outright for lack of such probable cause,” said Manalo.
Under the alleged “laglag bala” extortion modus, departing airline passengers, whose luggage are subjected to airport check, are planted with bullets, the mere possession of which is a violation of Republic Act No. 10591, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Act, is punishable by imprisonment in case of conviction.
Reports have it that knowledgeable persons have surfaced to accuse airport personnel of allegedly coercing passenger-victims to give money in order to avoid criminal charges and face jail time or, the least, avoid the inconvenience of delayed flights.
Some reports speculate that the supposed modus operandi is operated by a syndicate, possibly involving some airport personnel, particularly from the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) tasked to conduct the luggage and bag inspection of would-be passengers in the airport.
The ANGKLA lawmaker said there should be a mechanism allowing the executive branch, through the special prosecutors, the power to release a passenger, if based from the initial evidence he/she appears to be a mere victim of the nefarious airport scam, to lessen the inconvenience caused to the apprehended passenger.
This measure, Manalo said, is also in consideration of the common observation that most of the alleged victims of the “laglag bala” scheme are senior citizens, Overseas Filipino Workers, and even foreigners.
“Their indefinite detention in the airport following a warrantless arrest have caused not only inconvenience to the passengers but put OFWs at risk of losing their employment opportunities and prejudice the health of seniors, among other consequences,” he explained.
Manalo expressed confidence that Congress will give due attention and act on the issue as soon as practicable, noting that more than half-a-dozen separate House Resolutions on the “laglag bala” issue have been filed by his colleagues in the House of Representatives.
“It is imperative and crucial that this controversy be resolved and not wait for it to inflict more damage to the country’s reputation in the international community, particularly in the campaign to boost tourism and attract investors to boost economic development,” Manalo concluded.