A reliable source revealed the tactics of the scammers who victimize more than 20 unsuspecting passengers a day at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila, Philippines.
Shockingly, the whistleblower said that the “laglag-bala” or “tanim-bala” modus operandi persisted for the past 20 years, but even the worn-out closed-circuit television cameras installed at all the airport terminals fail to detect how the perpetrators plant bullets in the victims’ luggage.
The “tanim-bala” which literally means “planted-bullet” is a scheme conducted by a group of unscrupulous airport employees. They put one tiny bullet inside a passenger’s luggage, and ultimately, extort money from the unlucky victims who would likely end up paying the scammers in order to avoid the hassle of missing their flights.
Recently, the widow of an x-ray screener who was involved in the disreputable crime at NAIA exposed the syndicate’s strategy.
Passengers with Connecting Flights
The scammers primarily target passengers with connecting flights to domestic or international areas.
“Sometimes, they would know the passenger’s destination just by checking the address in his balikbayan box or luggage, then they would let him pass the airport’s security checks over and over again,” the source, who wished to remain anonymous said.
Finding targets while doing their day job may not be easy due to the influx of people in the busy airport. So how do they pick their victims?
The scammers at the airport hire “spotters” who would choose potential victims, and plant the bullet in their luggage, usually a tiny .22 bullet.
“They only need seconds to place the bullet inside their luggage,” the informer confessed.
These scammers raked in hundreds of thousands of pesos everyday until the controversy was exposed. The x-ray operators and the spotters usually obtain 60 and 40 percent of the proceeds respectively.
“In the past, 20 was even a low figure,” the source claims. “When it was exposed in the media, they became more careful with who they victimize,” she added.
The source mentioned that a simple lifestyle check would reveal the culprits.
“Security screeners have small salaries. So, if there’s an investigation, those involved will be the ones with big houses, expensive cars, children who go to private schools, frequent foreign trips, and even extra wives,” she said.
Most of us are probably wondering if the airport officials have conducted their own investigation regarding this matter. Or why, perhaps, no steps were taken to stop the crime?
While more questions probably came into our minds, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) spokesperson, Eric Apolonio advises passengers to never lose sight of their luggage and to ensure that all the pouches and zippers in their baggage are firmly locked.