House of Representatives

After NAIA cash-gobbling scandal, Romualdez demands resignation of OTS chief

Dwight de Leon

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After NAIA cash-gobbling scandal, Romualdez demands resignation of OTS chief

GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL. Retired police major general Mao Aplasca during a virtual cooking demo organized by the House of Representatives in October 2020.

House Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Speaker Martin Romualdez ups the ante with a threat: he would personally block the proposed 2024 budget of the Office for Transportation Security should its head Mao Aplasca refuse to step down

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Martin Romualdez asked the head of the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) to step down immediately in the wake of a cash-gobbling scandal involving a security screening personnel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Romualdez, going one step further, threatened to derail the passage of the OTS’ proposed 2024 budget if Undersecretary Mao Aplasca – OTS administrator – fails to heed his demand.

“I am advising the OTS chief: submit your courtesy resignation before the House of Representatives tackle the budget of your office,” Romualdez said in a statement on Monday, September 25.

“If you do not submit your resignation, I will be the one to block the approval of the OTS’ budget,” he added.

The House is scheduled to tackle in the plenary the proposed budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), OTS’ parent agency, on Wednesday, September 27. The OTS is the agency responsible for the security of the Philippines’ transportation systems.

On September 8, a female security screening officer was caught on surveillance camera swallowing $300 worth of bills, which she allegedly stole from a shoulder bag of a departing passenger who was passing through an X-ray scanner.

Footage of the incident became viral online and sparked public outcry.

Investigation by airport authorities suggested the female officer was in connivance with the X-ray officer and their supervisor.

The DOTr has directed the OTS to impose the maximum penalty against the errant personnel.

This isn’t the first time this year that a NAIA personnel was implicated in incidents of theft.

In February, airport personnel allegedly stole cash from a Thai tourist. In March, another officer was nabbed for stealing a Chinese passenger’s watch.

The incidents are an embarrassment for a government that is wooing big firms to invest in the NAIA rehabilitation project.

“We are already fed up with these reports of stealing and other acts of wrongdoing at the airport, for which OTS officials and their DOTr supervisors are ultimately responsible. A top-to-bottom overhaul is needed,” Romualdez said, suggesting a complete overhaul of the OTS.

Romualdez also advised DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista to “watch his own backyard.”

“Every now and then, we hear of nefarious activities, aviation glitches, power equipment malfunctions and disruptions, and similar nasty things taking place at the airport. There may be people sabotaging him,” Romualdez said.

Aplasca is a retired police major general. He was sergeant-at-arms of the House of Representatives from October 2020 until his resignation in December 2021.

Lord Allan Velasco was the House speaker at the time, while Romualdez was the House majority leader. –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.