The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is one of those government workplaces where sharp suckers thrive profitably. Like those of their cousins at the Customs or at the Police organization, their actual pay is low, but they love to stick around. Not only because it is easy to moonlight as a sucker, but also the windfall is huge. It is like hitting a jackpot when one is hired in any of these places, where in all probabilities the primary criteria for getting in, is “connection” rather than competency.
To those suckers whose workplace is at the NAIA, at least, they don’t feel guilty as much for their bilking job. The Balikbayan, their usual victim, are more of a generous bunch. When touched by the pseudo extra helpfulness of the airport personnel, their hearts melt sometimes, they don’t mind sharing a bit of their little fortune in the form of tips. Those Balikbayan frequenting at the airport on a yearly basis, who have been accustomed of the tricks, yet get pestered, just not to get pissed further, would shell out some spare of whatever currencies they have – not in “pesos”, mind you – to get quick out of the airport.
The same is true when one departs. Once one’s luggage passed through the x-ray machine for screening, if the screener see items that they could convert into cash, say dried fish, a contact spotter would whisper to the owner of the luggage saying some prohibited items are in the luggage. Depending on the reactions of the luggage owner – and the suckers are good at this – if they appeared guilty, nervous, or tensed, the suckers then would paint a frightening scenario: that they would be in trouble, which they couldn’t get on their flight, or worse, that they would be put in jail. My brother in law shelled out 1000 pesos for the dried fish. These simplest forms of extortion, by the bulk, the daily take of the suckers is huge compared to their daily wage.
The infamous “Tanim Bala” is the most sophisticated, so far, of all the sucker’s schemes. The suckers are gifted with aids to keep their side-line flourish. One aid, is the Filipino penchant for bullet as an amulet, that it should be always with them, and the second aid is the specific law regarding the carrying of ammunitions. These two aids are heaven sent for the suckers. And, as if they covered all the bases, they do have a script to follow to extort money flawlessly and could get away with it.
The “Tanim Bala” schemes involved a process. More or less this is how suckers do it. Once the spotter pinpointed who the victim would be, he/she would be informed in whisper of the bullet found in his/her luggage, and it could be fix for a fee. If the victim caved in, that’s it. Done. Easy money for the sucker. If the victim denied the object, an accomplished would clandestinely put a bullet in the luggage and make it pass through the X-Ray machine again. The screener, of course, would see it, alert his accomplished, and show it to the owner of the luggage. If the victim panicked, and forked out money, that’s it. Happy are the suckers again. Now, if the victim has a presence of mind, cannot be intimidated, would call a lawyer or would make a scene, that’s a different story. This time around, the sucker would deploy their script for cover. The sucker would backtrack, would negotiate still for money, and will put out a waiver for the victim to sign – that the bullet found is just an amulet. Still, good money for the suckers.
However, there are victims, like Maria Paz Triaz who was stopped at the NAIA for her Flight to Singapore, on October 27, 2015, found to have bullet in her backpack who refuse to budge in. An older Lady Officer, said, “Let’s fix this”. But Maria with ironed determination would not like to pay, willing to be investigated on, and be detained.
When the sucker sensed Maria would play hard ball, the sucker halted her offensive and switched to defensive mode. The Lady Officer said, “Let’s keep it among us”. Maria signed a waiver that the bullet was her amulet, and they were allowed to board for their flight with no more harassment.
These suckers, if they could help it, didn’t want their “tanim bala” attracted public attention. That would be their Achilles heel, and would kill the duck that lay the golden eggs. But out of greed, and for years and years that the suckers had been used to not being caught, they feel immune and confident nothing untoward would happen, and so they continued to rampage on. It is not always hunky-dory, though, when these suckers crossed with Gloria Ortinez, a 56 year old OFW worker in HongKong, which generate too much sympathy for her ordeal. And also, when they let Lane Michael White, a missionary’s son whom they sent to jail, because also of the planted bullet found in his bag. His stepmother, who is a Fillipina refused to pay the 30,000 pesos these suckers demanded for his liberty.
The Whites narrated in the Tanim Bala Senate hearing how these suckers defensively deployed their cover tactics of pleading to the Whites to just admit they owned the bullet for the suckers to get out of the mess. Actually, these suckers didn’t want their scam to reach this stage. They made a colossal mistake. Unfortunate for these suckers because the Whites are Christian and don’t want to lie. Fortunate for the public because the “Tanim Bala” exposed how incompetent the NAIA is run.