Press Release
November 5, 2015

Cayetano on "Tanim-Bala" issue: "They're people, not statistics"

"Tao ang pinag-uusapan natin, hindi numero, hindi statistics. Napaka-offensive na iko-compare mo kung ilan ang biktima sa population ng (NAIA passengers). Ang numero, walang buhay 'yan, walang anak, walang pamilya, walang trabaho, walang pangangailangan. Pero ang tao, meron. And government is supposed to protect the weakest of the weak," Senate Majority Leader Alan Cayetano said, stressing that DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya owes the public an apology for his recent statements on the "Tanim-Bala" issue.

"Sa 0.004% na apektado, dapat 101% parin ang tugon ng gobyerno," Cayetano insisted as he slammed cabinet officials who seemed to undermine the occurrence of the modus at the country's international airports.

"Panay ang salag, panay ang dipensa, as if sila ang ina-accuse na gumawa nito. Pero ang ina-accuse sa [kanila] ay ang pagiging napaka-defensive, to the point na wala [silang] ginagawa to prevent and to correct [the alleged scheme]," the senator added.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Abaya addressed allegations of extortion by airport personnel, stressing that the cases have been "blown out of proportion" as the number of passengers who were caught with ammunition merely comprised 0.004 percent of the total number of passengers who pass through NAIA terminals.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras confirmed that the Palace is looking into the possibility that "Tanim-Bala" reports could merely be part of a demolition job against the administration, especially since elections are coming up and the situation is an ideal political issue.

But Cayetano criticized the officials' take on the issue as well as the government's overall "gross inaction" on cases reported by victims of the scheme. He decried the repeated denials early on by government agencies that extortion activities were happening at the airports.

"Ang binibilang lang nila, ang nahulihan ng bala. [What about the] chilling effect [experienced by all passengers]... OFW man o turista... napa-paranoid na mataniman sila ng bala. So how can [they] say na 0.004 lang ang percentage ng apektado?" he noted.

The senator cited the case of Gloria Ortinez, an OFW from Hong Kong who was arrested after airport officials allegedly found a rifle bullet in her bag. Ortinez was later on released due to questionable evidence, but lamented at how her employment abroad was crucially affected as she is forced to stay in the country pending her case.

"Kahit isa lang 'yan out of 100 million Filipinos, ang ine-expect natin sa gobyerno, maging proactive. [Matapang na solusyon at mabilis na aksyon ang kailangan, hindi panibagong palusot]," Cayetano concluded.

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