An eyewitness to the alleged extortion by three airport personnel has submitted an affidavit before the Department of Justice to beef up the criminal complaint filed against them by an elderly couple for their alleged role in the latest case of bullet planting or tanim-bala scheme at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
In a two-page sworn affidavit submitted to the DoJ, Maria Fe Balagot said she witnessed x-ray screeners Ferdinand Morales and Fatti Dame Go from the Office for Transportation Security and wheelchair attendant Niño Namba allegedly conspiring to try to extort P50,000 from Esteban and Salvacion Cortabista at the departure area of Naia last April 19.
Balagot, niece of the Cortabistas, narrated that she was with the couple when the incident happened and that they were supposed to fly with her to the United States to seek treatment for severe arthritis.
The witness said the discovery of the bullet came as a surprise because it was not detected by the first x-ray at the entrance of the airport.
Balagot recalled hearing the amount supposedly being demanded by the airport personnel immediately after the bullet was found in one of their carry-on bags at the x-ray area.
“I heard the male operator in the x-ray say ‘mahina ang P50,000 dyan’ [P50,000 is a small amount for that], and then the female operator replied, ‘kung ako sa kanila magbigay nalang sila kesa madelay pa yung flight [If I were them, they should just give it instead of their flight being delayed],” Balagot said, in a sworn statement she subscribed before the office of the consul general in Los Angeles, California last April 26.
Balagot said she saw Namba gesturing to Morales and Go, which she took as a sign of conspiracy.
Balagot recalled that she could not hide her frustration upon seeing her relatives being held by airport police and treated like criminals.
“That’s when I started crying and shouted, ‘Wala talaga kayong pinipiling bibiktimahin; ‘di na kayo naawa wala kaming pera. Wala kaming pera! wala kaming pera! [You really have no consideration inchoosing your victims, you have no mercy. We don’t have money! We don’t have money!]” she said.
The Cortabistas are facing preliminary investigation on charges of violation of Republic Act No. 10591 (Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act) in the Department of Justice (DOJ). They were expected to appear at a hearing on May 3.
The couple were barred from boarding Korean Airlines flight KE 622 bound for Los Angeles via Seoul, South Korea last April 19 after the Office for Transport Security personnel allegedly found a live .38-caliber bullet in one of their bags at the departure area of NAIA Terminal 1.
They denied owning the bullet and insisted it was planted in their hand-carry bag by airport personnel.
The couple filed robbery by extortion charges against the three airport personnel before the Pasay City prosecutor’s office earlier this week.
They attended the DOJ hearing on the charges against them only to inform the prosecutor about the complaint they filed against Morales, Go and Namba.