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Security personnel employed at one of the world’s worst airports have been accused of planting bullets in passengers’ luggage in an attempt to extort money from them, according to reports.
Coined the “bullet scam,” the twisted scandal is happening at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), also called the Manila International Airport, in the Philippines, where much like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the U.S., airport officials have absolutely no oversight and are essentially guarding themselves.
Travelers who allege that Filipino security personnel planted ammunition in their luggage say they were told they could either pay a fine, or be charged with carrying illegal ammunition. The fines range from $30 to $1800, with some unlucky airport travelers even getting jail time.
In September, Lane Michael White, an American missionary, accused security personnel at Ninoy Aquino International Airport of placing a bullet in his luggage and using the “planted” contraband to extort nearly $2,000 from him, according INQUIRER.net.
After refusing to pay the fine, the 20-year-old missionary ended up spending six days in jail and was only released after posting a $2,500 bail.
40 Filipino airport security personnel being investigated for bullet scandal
“Causing him all this trouble was the .22-caliber bullet found in his bag in the morning of Sept. 17, when he and his family were scheduled to take a flight to Coron, Palawan. He ended up being charged with illegal possession of ammunition before Pasay City Judge Pedro Gutierrez.
“White was the second foreigner in a week to make such allegations against airport personnel manning the X-ray scanner at the departure area, where members of NAIA’s Office of Transportation Security (OTS) are assigned.
“Earlier, a wheelchair-bound American woman said she had to give P500 to an OTS member just to be cleared for her flight back to California. Like in White’s case, two .22-caliber bullets were found in one of the pockets of her luggage.
“White returned to the airport on Wednesday to recount his ordeal at the Media Affairs Office. He was expected to lodge a complaint against OTS personnel.
spokesman Jonathan Maliwat on Wednesday said he was not yet aware of White’s case.
“On the case of the American woman, Maliwat earlier said the two OTS members she cited — a woman who frisked passengers and a man who operated the X-ray machine — had been suspended to face an investigation.”
Ninoy Aquino International Airport already had a bad reputation even before news of the bullet scandal hit the web. The airport was voted the “world’s worst airport” by sleepinginairports.net for three consecutive years before dropping down to number four following small construction improvements, according to the Daily Mail.
Ninoy Aquino dropped off the worst airport lists just last year.
The airport has also been described as being extremely filthy with the smell of sewage wafting through its terminals and has received complaints about overcrowding, long check-in lines, limited seating and rude immigration officers.
Victims of bullet scam held in police detention for days
Sherwin Gatchalian, the vice-chairman of the country’s tourism committee in the House of Representatives, said the scandal has brought “international embarrassment,” according to BBC News.
Gatchalian condemned the employees of the airport’s Office of Transportation Security (OTS), pointing out they are “not afraid to prey on foreigners.”
Several other travelers have been victimized the scandal, including Gloria Ortinez, an overseas Filipino worker who was stopped from flying to Hong Kong following the discovery of a bullet in her locked carry-on luggage.
Ortinez denied that the bullet was hers, citing strict laws in Hong Kong about carrying ammunition in one’s luggage. Despite maintaining her innocence, she was still held in police detention for several days.
At least five airport passengers have been arrested for ammunition found in their luggage in recent days, according to Rappler, adding that 40 security officers are being investigated for “various complaints.”