Finally, a government agency has (semi) confirmed it. An NBI source told daily newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer that an initial investigation did discover an extortion syndicate that not only plants bullets in bags of airline passengers but also harasses them by questioning their travel papers. The most upsetting part is they’re targeting the elderly and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). If you or any of your loved ones are traveling, here are a few reminders for a safe journey:
Before you get to the airport
Make sure you have easy access to important documents. We suggest putting your passport, tickets, and identification cards in a clear plastic pouch in your carry-on bag so you can see it. Secure the pockets, zippers and pouches of your luggage. Use padlocks (don’t lose the key!), nylon cable ties (just remember that the only way to unfasten it is by cutting with scissors), or wrap your baggage in plastic (ProtectABag, a wrapping service at the airport, charges P160 per luggage no matter the size).
Don’t let the young kids bring their own bags. You can't rely on toddlers and preschoolers to be mindful of their things. So you may want to put the contents of their bags in a single one that a grown-up can keep watch on.
Save a lawyer’s number. A bit paranoid? Nothing to lose either if you have it. Save it on your phone or have his business card tucked in your passport holder. The hotline for the Public Attorney’s Office is +632 929-9436.
Bring disposable gloves. Yes, what a panicked response, but can you blame us? We want to avoid having our fingerprints on any item we didn’t bring in. Besides, gloves are great for storing toothbrushes.
Leave your house early. There is the traffic, and heightened security always means long lines.
At the airport
Be alert. That’s why you’re advised to arrive early. When you’re in a rush, you get easily distracted and don’t notice your surroundings.
Don’t lose sight of your luggage. Once it goes through the X-ray machines, pause the porma. Get everything in the basket first before you put on your jacket, belt or shoes. Don’t park them with you several feet away. They should always be by your side.
Know the prohibited items for the carry-on baggage. Remember liquids in 100 ml bottles and in clear plastic zippered pouches. To see the complete list, click here. Carrying prohibited items just invites your bag to be opened and rummaged.
In case you’re asked to open your bag because of a bullet: Stay calm. Notice we didn’t say don’t be afraid. There’s no avoiding it even if we are not guilty of anything.
Do not let them open the bag without you. In fact before you even open it, ask for the presence of the supervisor of security personnel and airport police. Make sure you also have your own witnesses. Everyone should have a clear view of the bag search
Request for a CCTV record of your bag inspection. As former law enforcement officer Michael Brown points out, it's about conducting a professional, legal search that will stand up in court, and about protecting the rights of accused persons.
No fingerprint-taking without your lawyer. You don’t do anything until your legal counsel arrives.