In the past few weeks we've been hearing news of bullets being planted into the bags of travelers in the NAIA Terminals. This is allegedly a scheme to extort money from people who don't want to be reported and detained for carrying contraband (possessing ammunition is illegal). Those who wish to simply go on with their flight are asked to pay a fee of around $1,000, equivalent to nearly P50,000.
Scary, isn't it? (Apart from it being crazy and outrageous!) Here are ways to avoid being a victim of the bullet scam:
1. Wrap your bags in cling wrap.
Many pieces of luggage have external pockets, where a bullet can easily be slipped into even if they're padlocked, as seen in the video below.
That said, apart from using heavy-duty padlocks or having a bag without pockets, wrap your entire bag in cling wrap to seal it and make planting a bullet in it hard.
2. Keep an eye on your bag AT ALL TIMES.
If you're asked to weigh your carry-on baggage and to remove your things from it and place them around your bag, be extra vigilant when unpacking and repacking. Bullets can be slipped in at this point.
Don't go through the X-ray check without making sure your bag has gone through it first untouched by anybody else.
3. You can delay opening your bag.
If contraband that you didn't pack is said to be in your luggage, you can NOT open your bag at once. You can demand the presence of the airport security staff supervisor AND your lawyer or a third party witness before opening your bag.
4. Only open the locks of your bag; don't touch your things after you've zipped open your bag.
Let the airport security staff take over and find the bullet. When you let them take over, you free yourself of having fingerprints on the so-called evidence against you. And the absence of your fingerprints sheds doubt that you even owned the bullet in the first place.
5. Don't let yourself be forced into admitting that the bullet is yours if it really isn't yours.
You have every right to remain silent and seek a lawyer.
6. Don't fall into the trap of paying so you can go to your boarding gate.
Know that no police officer can set bail; only a judge can do this. When police officers tell you to pay the extortion amount so you won't be reported, they are setting bail hence violating the law (Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, R.A. 3019). Tell them their act is punishable by imprisonment, perpetual disqualification from public office, and confiscation of unexplained wealth that's out of proportion to their salary. Tell them you're not going to pay them because you're innocent.
It's possible that you'll be let go by acknowledging that the bullet is your anting-anting—something that Maria Paz Triaz did to avoid detention. Take note, though, that she has come forward to authorities since then, as she was essentially left with no choice but to sign the document presented to her to continue her trip.
7. You can fight detention.
If you're detained, you can fight it by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus or a complaint of arbitrary detention.
The habeas corpus is for you to be set free when there's no reason to keep you, while arbitrary detention is a crime equivalent to illegal detention, aka kidnapping.
Source: Plazo Law
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