By Angie Rosales | The Daily Tribune
It smacks of a cover-up.
Such was the impression given yesterday by Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on the reported move of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to file criminal charges against six airport security personnel while exempting high-level officials on the tanim-bala (bullet-planting) scheme at the airports.
Marcos aired suspicions over the NBI findings dismissing allegations of the existence of an organized syndicate undertaking the extortion scam.
“By saying there is no syndicate, the NBI report practically exonerated ranking airport officials such as (Manila International Airport Security general manager Jose Angel) Honrado from any culpability in the tanim-bala scheme. I think it’s time for the Ombudsman to conduct its own investigation,” he said.
He urged the Office of the Ombudsman to seriously consider investigating Honrado as well and other ranking airport officials for any possible liability, especially in failing to stop the tanim-bala extortion scheme.
“I think the numerous reports about this reprehensible operandus would be enough for the Ombudsman to come in and investigate,” the senator said.
Marcos, who earlier had urged Malacañang to sack Honrado, cited that on its own the Ombudsman has the power to investigate any public official or employee when his acts or omission “appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient.”
Marcos assessed that the NBI findings are suspicious because they seem to coincide with the statement earlier made by President Aquino in downplaying reports of an organized tanim-bala syndicate citing statistics showing that only three out of 34 million passengers that pass through the airports annually complained of the scheme.
He had warned that such statement from the President would cast a cloud of doubt on any result of the NBI investigation of the tanim-bala incidents which were still on-going at that time.
“Malacañang’s penchant for immediately coming to the defense of its allies, friends or relatives hinders the effort to rid our airports of scalawag preying on the weak, elderly and our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs),” Marcos said.
Last Thursday, Escudero called anew for the resignation of Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya saying the issue on tanim-bala has given rise to renew the call.
“I had been calling for the removal or resignation of the Department of resignation of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) secretary. The scam should be added to the list of reasons for his resignation or termination,” he said.
The move by the NBI to file robbery with extortion charges on some personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Aviation Group and Office for Transportation Security (OTS) implicated in the said scheme is proof that the issue is not mere media hype.
“This is proof that there is a group which we can call a syndicate who undertake this scam. This should not be dismissed as mere election issue against the administration. The first step in solving the problem is to admit that it exists. They don’t want to admit it, however, but now the NBI is filing charges,” Escudero said.
Malacanang earlier tried to sweep under the rug the controversy saying that those alleged to be “victims” of laglag-bala were isolated cases.
“Robbery with extortion is a serious crime. It is a complex crime that carries heavier penalties than a simple crime or extortion,” Escudero said.