MANILA, Philippines – “He should be fired immediately. He is clearly incompetent. He should never have been put in that job in the first place.”
This is what Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr had to say about Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Jose Angel Honrado in the thick of the laglag-bala (bullet-dropping) scandal.
Visibly angered, Marcos told reporters on Thursday, November 5, that if it were “up to me,” Honrado would have never been given the job.
“It’s clear he does not know his job. He allowed this to happen,” said Marcos hours after Honrado was interviewed on television.
During the interview, the transport official said he had limited authority over the multiple agencies operating in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Marcos, who is running for vice president in the 2016 elections, also slammed the Aquino administration for its handling of the alleged scam which has been “victimizing” Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other passengers at the country's airports.
“I don’t understand why the initial reaction of the government is to say the problem is with the OFWs, saying they don’t lock their bags. The problem is not in the OFW, the problem is in the organization that allows the tanim-bala (bullet planting) to carry on,” he said.
Liberal Party standard-bearer and former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II had earlier said passengers who bring bullets into the airport have to take responsibilty for it, not the government. He clarified this a day later, saying that syndicates behind the scheme should pay for victimizing Filipinos and foreign tourists.
Why defend Honrado?
Malacañang Palace has also parried calls for Honrado to be fired, something Marcos took issue with.
“How can you possibly defend somebody who has allowed this kind of victimization of our OFWs to carry on in the face of public scrutiny?” he asked.
Marcos, who has said he wants to be transportation chief when elected, slammed Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya for saying the issue has been “blown out of proportion.”
“You can’t blow this issue out of proportion because even just one instance of this is egregrious,” he said.
For his part, Marcos said he is trying to help OFW and alleged laglag-bala victim Gloria Ortinez keep her job as a domestic worker in Hong Kong.
Ortinez, who hails from Paoay town in Ilocos Norte, Marcos’ bailiwick, had asked for the senator’s help.
“I have made contact with the Chinese ambassador and I will be meeting him today to ask for his assistance so she doesn’t lose her job,” said Marcos.
He said he would try to talk to her employer or her association to make them realize “this is not her fault.”
In response to the alleged scam, airport officials have added monitoring cameras and introduced a no-touch rule during baggage inspection.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.