Press Release
November 13, 2015


A day after the Senate hearing on the "laglag-bala" scam, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago urged her colleagues to deter airport security personnel from engaging in the alleged extortion scheme by raising penalties against persons who plant bullets or firearms as evidence.

Santiago, a laureate of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service, is set to file a bill that seeks to amend R.A. No. 10591, or the "Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act," by increasing the penalty against planting evidence, if committed by a private individual, to reclusion temporal.

If approved, the amendment means that a person found guilty of inserting, placing, or attaching a bullet, a firearm, or parts of either, with the intent of incriminating another, may be punished with imprisonment for 12 years and one day up to 20 years.

Santiago, a legal expert, explained that even if proposed amendments to R.A. No. 10591 decriminalize possession of not more than three bullets, the "tanim-bala" operations can still persist, simply by increasing the number of ammunition planted.

"The government must send a clear message to these airport syndicates that it will not tolerate these criminal activities and will prosecute those who plant evidence with as much zeal as it pursues those who smuggle firearms and ammunition," the senator said.

At present, the penalty for planting evidence is prision mayor (imprisonment for six years and one day to 12 years), except when the person found guilty is a public official or employee, in which case, the penalty is reclusion perpetua (imprisonment for 20 years and one day to 40 years).

Santiago said that her proposal is based on the observation that the modus operandi starts as soon as a person is identified to be a passenger whose luggage would have to be inspected. Porters, luggage handlers, and taxi drivers are believed to take part in the scam. "The law must punish those who, in the guise of upholding peace and order, abuse the law to prey on the innocent, whether these offenders are public officers or private citizens," said Santiago, author of one of the resolutions calling for a Senate hearing on the airport controversy.

She earlier responded to a petition signed by some 24,000 netizens, sparked by arrest of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Gloria Ortinez. The signature campaign condemned the scam as an abuse of OFWs, who are forced to pay bribes under threat of lawsuit.

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