Manila: Legal action will be initiated against a Manila airpor security screening personnel accussed of stealing money from a passenger and ingesting $300.
The Office of Transportation Security (OTS) has swiftly moved forward with legal proceedings against security screening personnel allegedly involved in the theft of passengers' money at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1.
This directive follows the verification of an incident where a female OTS employee allegedly ingested $300 worth in banknotes that she purportedly pilfered from a departing traveler's wallet.
Top transport officials, upon learning about the incident and seeing the surveillance footage, expressed "frustration" and "dismay" and vowed to punish the erring staff.
Alleged CCTV footage shows the female security screening officer seizing the passenger's shoulder bag for a manual inspection while the individual was undergoing an X-ray scan.
Surveillance footage from September 8 revealed the screening officer discreetly tucking something into her waist area after diverting her attention from the passenger.
The OTS has already identified the personnel concerned.
X-ray machine operator
Subsequently, the personnel operating the X-ray machine was observed passing a water bottle to the screening officer.
She then attempted to swallow the bills while struggling to do so, even as her supervisor appeared to engage in communication, presumably acknowledging her distress as she endeavoured to ingest the currency, with her hanky used to conceal the act, according to a report filed by airport authorities.
‘Intent to gain’
The report concludes that the officer acted with "intent to gain" the stolen funds and implies complicity on the part of the X-ray operator and the supervisor.
Following the investigation, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista has authorised the imposition of the "maximum penalty" on the culpable personnel to underscore the department's commitment "to eliminate unscrupulous individuals" from NAIA and its affiliated agencies.
Bautista has also enlisted the assistance of DOTr Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Reinier Yebra in filing complaints against those who conspired with the female screening officer.
An OTS representative confirmed that administrative charges against the offending personnel are now under review by the OTS Legal Service.
Simultaneously, OTS is collaborating with the Philippine National Police (PNP) Aviation Security Group to extend support to the affected passenger in the event they decide to pursue criminal charges against the security personnel.
Nonetheless, it remains uncertain whether theft charges will be filed, given the passenger's prior reluctance to initiate criminal proceedings, according to the Manila Bulletin.
3rd high-profile theft incident in 2023
The alleged incident involving the ingestion of dollars marks the third high-profile theft attributed to airport security personnel at NAIA in 2023, presenting a negative image amid the government's efforts to attract investors for the rehabilitation of the struggling international gateway.
Earlier this year, security personnel at the airport were caught stealing money from a Thai tourist, followed by the arrest of another NAIA screening officer five days later for stealing a Chinese passenger's watch, according to Philippine news outlet Rappler.
OTS administrator, Transportation Undersecretary Ma.O Aplasca, encouraged informants to report illegal activities committed by OTS personnel.
"The Department of Transportation has directed the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) to immediately file the necessary charges against security screening personnel found involved in a September 8 incident of baggage theft at Terminal 1 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
"Sec. Jaime J. Bautista expressed frustration and dismay at the incident at NAIA that the Secretary was recently trying to promote among potential foreign investors who may want to operate and maintain the country's main gateway.
"The Secretary further directed Undersecretary for Legal Atty. Reinier Yebra to assist in filing the complaints against those determined to have connived in stealing from the handcarried bag of a Chinese passenger.
"The OTS, after concluding its investigation, had recommended to Sec. Bautista taking legal and administrative actions against the security screener caught on CCTV apparently swalllowing the stolen $300 in order to hide the evidence.
The Secretary has authorized imposing the maximum penalty to those found guilty to demonstrate the Department's determined push to rid NAIA as well as other attached agencies of scalawags.