“Hey! I found something” is probably the most provoking statement an OFW or a good Filipino citizen would hear from the NAIA inspectors. Recently, the “tanim-bala” scam has been the talk of print, mass, and social media just days after it gained popularity from angered citizens. Just imagine thousands of people going in and out of the airport unaware of this scam. Would that be the worst nightmare ever? Let’s say you’re going to the United States for the holidays. You’re probably thinking about snow and the very cold weather, selfies in famous landmarks, and the likes. Unfortunately, the officer halts you from your imagination and tells you that a “ghost bullet” suddenly appears in NAIA’s high definition and state of the art X-ray scanner. Just imagine that scene. What would you do if you were caught in that situation?
Indeed, the tanim-bala enraged many Filipinos. This scam only shows that the law—which was supposed to be the binding force of the society in determining right over wrong—is vulnerable to the corrupt. This simple scam showed that the law was used in favor of the corrupt to perform fraudulent acts. Republic Act 10591, known as the “Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act,” stated in Article 1 Section 2, “…the State shall provide for a comprehensive law regulating the ownership, possession, carrying, manufacture, dealing in and importation of firearms, ammunition, or parts thereof, in order to provide legal support to law enforcement agencies in their campaign against crime, stop the proliferation of illegal firearms or weapons and the illegal manufacture of firearms or weapons, ammunition and parts thereof.” This statement concludes that it is really unlawful to possess firearms and ammunition without further compliance with the requirements of RA 10591 particularly in Article II of the said act.
The tanim-bala scam poses a question to us. Is the law properly implemented? Legislators make laws to maintain stability in this country. However, the law enforcers lack the balls to handle law enforcement. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said in a statement that the tanim-bala proved how corruption overcame law enforcement. The problem is just in front of us. Why would a person bring a bullet without a gun? How come the mastermind of this scam forgot that? And for the record, only a few bullets were found in every victim. It is very self-explanatory. Without a gun, a bullet is useless unless if that person wants to throw bullets instead of stones for self-defense. It is very obvious that the tanim-bala scam incriminates the law enforcers and the employees of NAIA for planting bullets in people’s bags. This is a loud knock to the heads of masterminds of this scam. A bullet can’t kill a person without a gun; unless you possess the power of Magneto and use these magnetic powers to kill.
What should we do if caught? Section 12 of the Philippine Bill of Rights stated, “Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice.” If the airport officials commands you to admit the possession of the bullet, you can enforce your right to remain silent. Or, if they force you to admit without any presence of a lawyer, this action is unacceptable in the court of law. Always remember that you need to have a witness to this incident. According to Section 17 of the Bill of Rights, “No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.” It would be better if you’re with a relative during that incident or just drag a bystander in the airport. Also, don’t touch the bullet if ever you see it through physical inspection. A bullet without your fingerprints means that you don’t possess the bullet. If the airport officials detain you subjectively, you have the power to resist by filing the writ of habeas corpus petition. If the officials insist the arbitrary detention, it can lead to illegal detention or popularly known as kidnapping (Article 297 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines). If the airport officials ask you to pay a certain amount that will exonerate you, don’t jump into the devil’s trap. That is extortion which is stated in RA 3019 or the “Anti-Graft and Corruption Practices Act” and is punishable by law.
Personally, I doubt that the government can solve this issue right away. Just compare the justice system with the country’s average internet speed rate. But, it is still very important to be equipped with the information you need. Though you may be travelling through air sooner or later, knowing your rights and counterattacks can help you assess the possibilities of this tanim-bala scam.
Eric Gerard D. Ruiz
Column Name: Tarantado, Asintado