5 NAIA screeners suspended for allegedly extorting money from foreign tourist

MANILA – Many screeners at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) were placed under preventive suspension for allegedly extorting money from a foreigner, the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) said Monday.

In a video posted by Thai Piyawat Gunlayaprasit on social media on Feb. 22, a female screener was seen putting something in the pocket of a male screener.

The same personnel allegedly took the money of a foreign passenger.

Further it can be seen from the video that the female personnel returned the money, which the OTS said was 20,000 yen or around PHP8,000.

The said passenger was on a connecting flight in Manila on the way to Tokyo, Japan aboard a Philippine Airlines flight.

“We identified at least five personnel who were involved. They were immediately relieved of their duties and are under preventive suspension while we initiate the conduct of a formal investigation,” OTS administrator Ma. O. Aplasca said.

He said that the OTS will pursue the administrative case.

They are also considering filing a criminal case.

 

“I think we should also exert an effort to file a criminal case. I look at it as a criminal offense already, which we cannot tolerate,” he said.

In the same interview, Aplasca admitted it was not the first time that screening personnel have been involved in alleged extortion. Since July 2022, the OTS had already dismissed 14 staff, whom he estimates that around four were involved in extortion.

The other violations of erring airport personnel include the improper disposal of intercepted prohibited items, rude behavior, violation of the “No Tipping” policy, among others.

Extortion cases were proven upon review of the CCTV footage, he said.

Aplasca said the OTS is doing what it can to improve the financial benefits of its personnel, and added that a meager salary is not a reason for anomalies or corruption.

Senator Grace Poe has joined calls to consider exempting NAIA employees from the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) following a recent incident involving an airport security personnel caught in a camera allegedly stealing money from a Thai passenger.

Poe, admitted that she felt mad and ashamed at the same time after watching the video which has recently gone viral in social media.

“Hindi lang sapat suspindido kasi napakamaselan ng kanilang trabaho at hindi magandang ehemplo sa iba kung suspindido lang sila at makakabalik din sila,” Poe who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Services, said.

However, the senator also wants to look into the salaries of the country’s airport personnel that might be one of their reasons for committing such misdeed.

“There is no excuse in doing something illegal when in need but the truth is, when you are so much in need, and not being properly compensated at the same time, you will be tempted to do these kinds of wrongdoings,” Poe said, speaking in Filipino.

“Maybe our airport personnel should be well compensated so that they will perform their job properly),” she added.