All packed? Saved the money for the biggest vacation ever to the Philippines? Hotels booked and meeting the girls all organized? So what can go wrong?
Well for many Filipinos and foreign travelers. The arrival or departure of any of the Manila airports is a very challenging affair. Having the write documents, the slow immigration queues, and the bullets. The bullets? Well, yes the bullets are a scam that the airports have been using here for some time with impunity.
There have been thousands of reports of people having their hand luggage searched and suddenly a magic bullet arrives. This small bullet (always the same caliber apparently) is found in a hand search inside an outside zip pocket or just dropped into an open bag. Carrying bullets is illegal and subject to fines and maybe imprisonment.
If you are a single 60-year-old Filipina traveler or a big Aussie on his first visit. It will be down to luck if they pick on you. After the shouting is over, you will realize that this is all about money. For p20,000 to 30,000 the problem will go away. If you don’t, the problem means you go to the police station for the long long wait. This might involve a few days in prison. Most people reluctantly pay and the money is split between all those involved in this corrupt practice.
Most countries would be shocked and stop it. This is the Philippines, it is very hard to stop as the involvement of many people at all levels.
Called ‘”tanim bala” (which means planting bullets) it has meant passengers have been faced with fines or even the possibility of being charged with the illegal possession of ammunition.
After several passengers were detained, others taken to court for refusing to pay fines and an outcry by legislators in the Philippines, it has spurred Filipinos to action.
They have been posting to social media defiant notices stuck to their luggage, wrapping suitcases in layers of plastic sheeting and speaking out about the dangers of this scam.
Officials at the Manila International Airport set up a public help desk.
“The government will not hesitate to punish NAIA personnel proven to be involved in the scam,” Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said.
Sen. Ralph Recto will file a resolution today seeking an investigation of abuses allegedly committed by NAIA employees against tourists and balikbayans.
Recto said the bullet planting scheme at the NAIA is the latest in a string of allegations against its personnel.
“Stories of travelers who have been victimized by the bullet planting modus operandi and other scams at the NAIA went viral on social media,” Recto said.
The management of the Manila International Airport Authority and the Office for Transportation Security under the Department of Transportation and Communications are investigating the bullet planting incidents although they described the cases as “isolated.”