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MANILA, Philippines – A security screening officer (SSO) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 was again caught stealing from a passenger, just days after five officers were suspended for pocketing cash from a Thai tourist.
At 2:30 AM on Wednesday, March 1, SSO Valeriano Ricaplaza Jr. was seen on closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage taking the watch of Chinese passenger Sun Yuhong at a security screening checkpoint. When the Chinese traveler reported the missing watch, the Office of Transportation Security (OTS) reviewed the CCTV footage, which showed Ricaplaza taking the watch from the tray containing the Sun’s personal belongings.
Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group subsequently arrested the suspect, who denied committing any theft.
“He was brought to the CCTV room to view the incident himself, and was immediately arrested,” the OTS said in a statement, adding that Ricaplaza was now in the custody of the police for further questioning.
OTS Administrator Undersecretary Mao Aplasca said that criminal complaints will be filed against the suspect.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), which manages NAIA, also condemned the incident.
“Even though these people manning the screening areas are employees of the OTS and not of the MIAA, they still operate in NAIA which we administer. It happened under our roof, so it is critical that we resolve these issues so as not to cause alarm among passengers and affect their confidence to travel to the Philippines,” MIAA General Manager Cesar Chiong said in a statement.
This is the second incident of theft at the airport in mere days. On February 22, security screening officers were also caught allegedly stealing cash from a Thai passenger.
The MIAA has since installed a fisheye camera directly above the screening area and vowed to conduct a “thorough review of blind spots across all terminals.”
“We are trying to remove all possible forms of obstruction. This is one of our major deterrents to illegal acts such as pilferage or theft. These facility changes will not be limited to Terminal 2,” said Chiong.
Meanwhile, the OTS said it will be deploying regional heads and terminal chiefs to monitor and oversee security screening operations. (READ: Transport security chief: Bags should only be opened in owner’s presence) – Rappler.com