Where do scam victims go? Put presidential desk at NAIA

MANILA, Philippines – If you’re an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who’s framed up by airport security with a bullet in your bag, then where do you go for instant help? 

If the guards at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) wouldn’t go after – worse, is in cahoots with – abusive taxi drivers, then who takes action right there and then?

Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said on Friday, October 30, that the immediate answer is an office that already exists in Malacañang. The Presidential Action Center (PACE) only needs to put an action desk at the Manila airport terminals.

“Iyan siguro ang dapat itanim sa NAIA ngayon – isang sangay ng pinakamataas na opisina ng bansa na tatanggap ng puna at papuri na rin sa serbisyong kanilang natanggap,” Recto said in a statement.

(I think that’s what we should plant at NAIA now – a detachment of the highest office of the land that will receive complaints and commendations about the services they get.)

There have recently been a number of cases of OFWs being held by airport police and security for allegedly carrying a bullet in their bags. Some of them revealed they were forced to pay bribes to be allowed to go. (READ: How to curb 'laglag-bala' modus and airport extortion)

Before this, OFWs complained of customs officers inspecting their luggage and taking expensive items in the process, or extorting from them so these items wouldn’t be confiscated.

The presidential action desk “can serve as a deterrent to the commission of scams and a reminder to render excellent service,” the senator said.

He said the PACE Citizen’s Charter describes “the Office of the President [to be in] the best position to serve as the command center” when the public has grievances or has to make requests for assistance.

The presidential action desk at the NAIA can, therefore, be a “one-stop, on-the-spot troubleshooting center” for OFWs and travellers in general.

‘Mini-national government’

“The idea is to pool together all agencies which have something to do with OFWs and travel,” Recto said. “You can call that a mini-national government center in NAIA.”      

Recto said the following agencies, for example, should be represented or connected to the presidential action desk at the airports: the Commission on Human Rights, the Public Attorney’s Office, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“So that when an OFW, for example, cries that a bullet has been planted in his luggage, there is an office he can seek assistance from,” he said. 

“Or kung may minor na papunta sana sa Hong Kong Disneyland pero nakalimutan ang clearance from the DSWD, doon mismo matutulungan ng naka-duty na taga-DSWD.” (Or if a minor going to Hong Kong Disneyland forgets his clearance from the DSWD, then a DSWD staff on duty can assist him right there and then.)

He continued: “Kung nabiktima ka naman ng taxi na mabilis ang metro, doon mismo p’wede kang magsampa ng reklamo.” (Or if you’ve been victimized by a taxi with defective meter, you can file a complaint right there.)

The 32 million travellers who use the 4 NAIA terminals every year are “a large constituency which can neither be ignored nor denied of service,” Recto said.    

He pointed out that OFWs “send back P1.3 trillion annually,” and the action desk “is one way for the highest office in the land to tell OFWs that I have your back.”

Recto said the Malacañang’s detachment at NAIA can be funded out of the budget this year. The Manila International Airport Authority, for instance, has its own income, which was at P3.9 billion as of two years ago.

For 2016, that desk can be accommodated in the proposed budget of P2.8 billion for the Office of the President, or in the proposed P4 billion Contingent Fund, he said.

Recto filed in September a resolution seeking a Senate investigation into scams at NAIA. – Rappler.com