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Airport Security Accused of Planting Ammo in Passengers’ Bags in Extortion Scheme

Officials at the Philippines’ largest airport are said to have framed dozens of flyers with a “bullet-in-the-bag” scam in an attempt to extort money from unsuspecting tourists.

Security officers at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in Manila are accused of planting live ammunition in passenger’s luggage and then demanding a bribe when the planted evidence is “discovered.” The scam has become so commonplace that it has earned its own nickname in local media reports, “tanim bala” or “planting of bullets in luggage.” According to CNN Philippines, the Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group has logged 30 complaints of tanim bala plots this year, while the Manila International Airport Authority is investigating five complaints in the last two weeks alone.

Targeted passengers have allegedly been threatened with arrest unless they were willing to pay a “fine” directly to security officers. Because possession of unregistered ammunition is a serious criminal offense in the country, it is believed that many passengers, including foreign nationals, chose to pay the sometimes exorbitant bribes rather than risk charges.

Presidential Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said government officials have opened an investigation in response to reports of widespread tanim bala schemes, but he referred to the reported incidents as “isolated.”

Anti-corruption groups in the Philippines have staged demonstrations to protest the alleged abuses by airport security officers. The groups are also distributing tips to help passengers avoid falling prey to corrupt airport officials. Suggestions to help flyers avoid becoming a victim of the extortion scheme include using hard-sided luggage without side pockets, seal luggage with shrink wrap at airport kiosks before security and insisting that a witness or supervisor is present if security officers demand to search personal items.

[Photo: Getty Images]

Comments are Closed.
alphaod November 9, 2015

Or just don't fly to the Philippines.

Fyd November 7, 2015

The tips are good. Initial investigation suggests that scam can happen at scanner at terminal entrance, so you would have to get luggage wrapped before getting to airport. Also, apparently porters/helpers outside are suspected to be part of scam, so you should avoid offers of help, keep luggage with you and go straight to entrance. I currently live in MNL and wrote some more tips here: http://dreamtravelonpoints.com/2015/11/what-to-do-about-manila-airport-bullet-security-scam/ A bill was just submitted to eliminate penalties for up to 3 bullets, so with all the attention, hopefully this will be over soon!