Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Jose Angel Honrado on Tuesday defended the apprehension of a departing overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who was allegedly found carrying a bullet in her bag at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
At a Senate hearing on terminal fee refunds, Honrado said the police had to arrest the OFW, a 56-year-old woman on her way to Hong Kong, as the bullet had all the components of live ammunition.
"Kumpleto po 'yung component niya as an ammunition. Kaya sabi ng PNP (Philippine National Police), we're basing our judgement on the ammunition. Let the court, let the fiscal court decide [whether] to let her go or not," Honrado said.
Pro-OFW groups, however, said the OFW, identified as Gloria Ortinez, has been working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong for 20 years and did not fit the profile of someone who would smuggle live ammunition abroad.
Susan Ople of migrants' rights group Blas Ople Policy Center said the woman's travel history made it unlikely for her to bring live ammunition to the airport.
"Ito po ay beterana nang OFW. Alam niya na bawal magdala ng ammunition sa Hong Kong," said Ople, who was present at the hearing presided by Sen. Cynthia Villar.
Ople suspected Ortinez may have been a victim of the "laglag bala (bullet planting)" extortion racket at NAIA.
Honrado, however, insisted that the police had no choice but to file a case against the OFW because of the evidence. "Yung police po, they had no choice but to file the case kasi may ebidensiya po," he said.
Ople requested the MIAA to consider Ortinez's age and livelihood and asked them to curb the alleged extortion racket which she said victimizes mostly OFWs.
"Na-destroy na 'yung buhay ng tao. May potential na baka hindi pa siya maka-pasok ng Hong Kong not because of the employer but because naging security risk siya," she said.
Ortinez was given temporary freedom pending the result of the investigation, a report on State of the Nation said.
Villar, for her part, has called for an inquiry on complants against personnel of the Office for Transport Security (OTS), the group being blamed for the "laglag bala" extortion racket.
"May nagsasabi... na palagi raw ganyang klaseng bala, pare-pareho daw ang nahuhuli sa airport. Kaya nagkaka-[idea] sila na talagang may modus operandi," she said.
Honrado said the OTS is not under the MIAA. "They are single authority, na hindi under sa MIAA," he said.
"But being the general manager [of MIAA], I accept the responsiblity," Honrado added. —KBK, GMA News