Airport officials in the Philippines are suspected of planting bullets in passengers’ luggage

Is that a bullet in your pocket?
Is that a bullet in your pocket?
Image: AP Photo/Bullit Marquez
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Philippine officials at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila have been accused of planting bullets in passengers’ bags as they go through security, in a plot to extract hefty fines from tourists and other travelers.

A Japanese tourist and an overseas Filipino worker were the latest to complain last week, according to the BBC, and Philippine news site Rappler has kept a timeline of passenger complaints. In some cases, flyers found with bullets found in their luggage were detained for multiple days and released after paying lucrative fines. Other passengers paid off security guards and were released.

The Aviation Security Group said 30 cases have been recorded this year.

Local government officials are starting to take notice. Alan Peter Cayetano, the senate majority leader of the Philippines, filed a complaint against the Department of Transportation and Communication’s head, Joseph Emilio Abaya, for neglect of duty and command responsibilities on Tuesday.

The mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte, has also spoken out on the issue. CNN Philippines reports that on an episode of his weekly TV show last Sunday (Nov. 1), Duterte said laglag bala (“dropping a bullet into a bag”) and tanim bala (“planting bullet into a bag”) have been going on for two to three years at the hands of a crime syndicate in Manila.

“I suspect that the very moment they entered NAIA [airport in Manila], right at the cargo hold, the bullets were already planted,” he said.

On Tuesday (Nov. 3), Rappler reported that the office of the Philippine president is also looking into whether passengers were merely bringing bullets onboard as amulets.

“I don’t share that cultural thing of bringing amulets, but I understand a number of people do consider bullets as amulets. So that’s also being looked into,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, Rappler reported.