MIAA head: Limited authority in disciplining erring staff

MANILA, Philippines – Amid public anger over the alleged tanim-bala or bullet-planting scam at the Philippines' main airport, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Jose Angel Honrado admitted that he has limited authority over other agencies operating in the airport.

In an interview on ANC's Headstart on Thursday, November 5, Honrado said there are 22 agencies operating in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) with their own set of procedures and mandates.

The Office for Transportation Security (OTS), whose security screening personnel are blamed for allegedly dropping bullets in the bags of unsuspecting passengers and later attempting to extort money from them, are under the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).

Meanwhile, the Aviation Security Group (AvSecGroup) is under the Philippine National Police. Passengers caught by the OTS carrying illegal items are turned over to airport police. (READ: Airport police involved in bullet scam? 'Impossible,' says PNP)

"For the past 5 years, I'm leaning more on coordination and goodwill of the agencies," Honrado said.

"The only procedure in disciplining erring personnel of other agencies is revoking their access passes and referring their case to the mother agency for investigation," he added.

At least 40 personnel from the OTS are currently under investigation for various complaints.

Honrado also said that he has to coordinate with other agencies when it comes to various proposed solutions to deter alleged extortion happening inside the airport.

For instance, suggestions to have closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed in all questioning rooms in the airport should have to take into account the "laws, executive orders, and legal nuances attendant to those agencies."

Honrado admitted that he is not sure if all the rooms inside the airport where apprehended passengers are taken for questioning are equipped with CCTV cameras.

His answer drew a surprised reaction from Headstart host Karen Davila, who said that this could provide opportunity for corrupt airport personnel to extort money from passengers without recording devices picking up the attempt.

Honrado said he will take up the recommendation with the PNP and the legal department "just to make sure we're not intruding into the legal mandate of these agencies."

The alleged bullet-planting scam in NAIA has drawn international attention and stoked public fears, with wary travelers now wrapping their luggage with plastic and tape to avoid being victimized.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, government officials belied claims that there was a syndicate in NAIA behind the scheme.

Honrado reiterated this on Thursday's interview, but admitted that there may be "opportunities for extortion." 

Honrado and 3 other officials are currently the subject of a complaint filed by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano before the Ombudsman. – Rappler.com