DOTr: No baggage pilferage in NAIA Terminal 1

Aika Rey
DOTr: No baggage pilferage in NAIA Terminal 1
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade makes the announcement after a social media post claimed that the baggage of a Filipino couple was pilfered at NAIA 1

MANILA, Philippines – Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade on Tuesday, February 6, denied the reported pilferage of the baggage of a Filipino couple at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 (NAIA 1)

Tugade made the announcement in response to traveler Fe Cabalquinto, who claimed in a Facebook post on January 31 that the senior couple – identified by the transportation department as Efren Valero and Teresita Velero – were victims of baggage pilferage at NAIA 1.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) took notice of the post and conducted an investigation. The MIAA discovered that the box of the couple was partially opened and was inspected at a US airport, as shown by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) inspection tape on the box.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said in a statement that the two seniors signed a certification stating that they did not authorize Cabalquinto to share the incident on social media. Cabalquinto’s post is currently unavailable on Facebook. (READ: Things to know about balikbayan boxes)

Tugade said the public might have lost trust in airport staff due to “laglag-bala” (bullet-planting) incidents and reports of stolen or damaged items in boxes after inspection. 

Last month, an incident at the Clark International Airport  involving the pilferage of an overseas Filipino worker’s (OFW’s) luggage led to the termination of ground handler Miascor’s contract.

“I understand that we have citizens who do not have trust in our airport staff. They probably remember the incidents of opening balikbayan boxes and ‘laglag-bala.’ But I am asking everyone to be more responsible in spreading information on social media. There are airport staff who work hard and may be affected by the claims,” said Tugade.

MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal assured the public that the airport authority is doing its best to ensure passenger safety, as well as baggage handling and safekeeping.

“We are making all necessary steps in order to prevent these incidents. But while it is your freedom to share anything on social media, remember that freedom comes with responsibility,” Monreal said.

On the flipside is the social media post of OFW Jovenil dela Cruz, who posted a video of his pilfered luggage after he arrived at the Clark Airport in Pampanga in January. After an investigation, 6 Miascor employees admitted to the crime and were terminated and charged with theft.

President Rodrigo Duterte who personally met with the OFW, warned he would fire airport officials if similar cases of theft happened again. (READ: Duterte to fire airport officials if luggage theft cases continue)

The issue pushed the DOTr to implement stricter guidelines for ground handling firms, following the Clark incident.

Handlers were no longer allowed to wear personal uniforms with pockets, boots or shoes must not be loose. They were also not allowed to wear jewelry, or bring or use cellphones while on duty. – Rappler.com

Image of NAIA Terminal from Wiki Commons

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.