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First airport laglag-bala complaint filed with NBI

MANILA, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has received a first complaint related to the alleged "laglag-bala" or bullet-planting scam targeting passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The scheme, which has angered the public and drawn international attention, allegedly involves airport personnel who plant bullets in the bags of unsuspecting passengers in order to frame them and extort money. (READ: How to curb 'laglag-bala' modus and airport extortion)

Josie Marie Paz Trias, 34, filed a complaint at the NBI-National Capital Region office on Tuesday afternoon, November 3, following an incident at NAIA Terminal 3 last week.

In her complaint, Trias said that a bullet, wrapped in transparent plastic, was allegedly found at the front pocket of her backpack. She, along with her mother, grandmother, and uncle, were set to board a Cebu Pacific flight bound for Singapore on October 27.

Trias' grandmother, who is suffering from leukemia and breast cancer, had an appointment at the Singapore General Hospital and was set to undergo medical tests.

While at the security screening area, they were told that her uncle's bag was too heavy, and that they had to transfer some of its contents.

It was at this point that she lost sight of her bag, Trias said.

“Our focus was in removing some of the contents from one bag and transferring them to another bag. There is also that possibility that someone might have placed the bullet there without my knowing it when I was in the airport, because I checked my bag twice before the flight and that front pocket was empty,” she added.

At the X-ray screening area, Trias was told to open her bag and remove its contents. While the main pocket was padlocked, the smaller outer pocket had no locks; a female airport personnel later pulled out a bullet from the outer pocket.

Trias said she asked to speak to a lawyer or the NBI. A senior member of the staff then approached her and allegedly said, "Let us just fix this."

But Trias told her that she was willing to go to jail because she was innocent. She was then made to sign a logbook, already filled out with a prepared report, saying that the bullet was supposedly an amulet.

Trias said she decided to file the complaint at the NBI because her mother and grandmother had been traumatized by the incident. 

Special task force formed

Trias' story is one of the latest in a series of alleged bullet-planting incidents at the country's premier airport. The Manila International Airport Authority earlier said at least 5 cases have been reported since September, but the Aviation Security Group said 30 cases have been recorded from January to early November. (TIMELINE: Recent cases of alleged bullet scam at NAIA)

At least 40 personnel from the Office for Transportation Security are currently under investigation for various complaints. Meanwhile, transportation authorities sought to give assurances that the matter is being investigated.

On Tuesday, Justice Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Caguio ordered the NBI to form a Special Task Force to conduct "a thorough, in-depth, and comprehensive investigation and case build-up" on the alleged scam.

The 7-man task force will be comprised of operatives from the Anti-Organized and Transnational Crime Division. – Katerina Francisco/Rappler.com