Bullet-planting scandal a hot topic on social media

By Charmie Joy Pagulong
Bullet-planting scandal a hot topic on social media

The laglag-bala (bullet-planting) scandal at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has become a hot topic on social media websites and has become a global topic.

A video of a television show in Japan demonstrating how the bullet-planting scheme works made the rounds over social media websites.

The video, originally posted yesterday by Facebook user Shinjoy Noisap Martinez, showed Japanese TV hosts explaining how the bullets are planted – airport security officials would inspect the bag and spot the bullet inside the bag and detain the passenger who owns the luggage found with bullets.

The segment hosts also explained the plastic wrapping services offered at NAIA to prevent pilferage and tampering. The cost of plastic wrapping is P160 per bag, regardless of the size of the luggage.

The video also showed tourists with plastic-covered luggage.

Martinez posted the video with a caption saying the Philippines is a country of embarrassment because of the scam and that even Japan has made it a big issue.  

Another netizen commented on the same post that she is nervous about going back to the Philippines, fearing she might be victimized.

The owner of the video replied that he is planning to go home this December but due to the alarming incidents of bullet planting, he will just postpone it and go home next year.

In another post, Facebook user Wilfredo Garrido mentioned how paranoid travelers are in one of the world’s worst airports.

One of the last victims of the bullet planting scam was Japanese national Kazunobu Sakamoto, whose luggage was found with 9 mm round upon x-ray inspection. He was arrested on Oct. 25 and charged with illegal possession of ammunition, along with an OFW bound for Hong Kong who allegedly carried a bullet for a carbine rifle inside her handcarried bag. Sakamoto posted bail of P80,000.

Overseas workers earlier expressed fear they might fall victim to the scam when they return home for the holidays.

The public outrage focused on the airport officials and security personnel at the NAIA.

The bullet-planting scheme even became a mobile game application allowing smartphone users to play while waiting for their flights at the country’s airports.

A Filipino developer recently launched the game application “Tanim Bala” (bullet planter), which can be downloaded through Google Play.

Users will have to move their cursor from left to right to avoid bullets that fall into their luggage.

“These greedy administrators want to plant a bullet in your bag and if they succeed, you’ll end up paying $1,000. Of course you would not let them do that!” the app description read.

The app, created by developer Argene Tanyong of Kulit Games, received mostly positive response from Android smartphone users. It currently has a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Tanyong said he decided to come up with the game as a “stress reliever,” particularly among travelers worrying about the possibility of falling victim to the scam. He added he is now working on an iOS version for Apple users.

The scam also made it to a primetime show of a leading news channel in the US.

The issue was tackled by Greta van Susteren, host of the Fox News program “On the Record,” last Nov. 4 amid outrage in the Philippines over the extortion racket that reportedly targets tourists and migrant workers.

In the segment “Off the Record,” Susteren said an American friend of Filipino descent had warned her of the scheme after being informed that the television host is traveling overseas next week.

The television commentator then cited reports about the supposed planting of bullets in the luggage of travelers to extort money from them.

“There are reports that at the Manila international airport, international travelers, as many as 30 in the last 12 months, five of those in just the last two weeks, are being targeted by Filipino airport security officials who plant live ammunition in their luggage and then bust the international traveler for having bullets in his bag,” van Susteren said.

She said some passengers were even held for days and were told that they can pay a fine “or sit in the slammer facing charges.” – With  Alexis Romero, Janvic Mateo, Vberni Regalado