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Aplasca vows to rid OTS of ‘scalawags’

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The Office of Transportation Security (OTS) has vowed to weed out “scalawags” within its ranks following reports of alleged extortion activities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) on social media.

“The management will not stop performing its duties until we are down to the last scalawag within our ranks,” Office of Transportation Security (OTS) Administrator Ma. O Aplasca assured.

On February 22, 2023, a report on the alleged extortion activities of some OTS personnel surfaced on social media assigned at the Naia Terminal 2.

A video clip purportedly showed a departing foreign national requesting the security-screening officer (SSO) to return the money taken from him amounting to 20,000 yen or equivalent to P8,000 after passing x-ray screening.

The OTS took immediate action to identify the SSOs in the video. Subsequently, they were relieved from duty and were placed under preventive suspension. Their identities, however, were not revealed as of this writing.

Kim Marquez, OTS spokesperson, said investigators are now preparing to file appropriate administrative cases against the respondents, adding the office may also decide to lodge separate criminal charges against them in court.

“This illegal act will not be tolerated and we will apply the full force of the law to penalize the perpetrators to send a strong message that we are serious in cleansing our ranks,” Marquez said.

He added: “They [the erring OTS personnel] shall not only be dismissed from the service but shall also be put behind bars for their criminal acts that tarnish the reputation and integrity not only of OTS but the entire country in general.”

Since July 2022, the OTS internal cleansing program has already resulted in the dismissal of fourteen erring personnel, another three were suspended, while six cases are now being resolved by the OTS Legal Service, it was learned.

These cases range from violation of the OTS’s no tipping policy, violation in the proper disposal of intercepted prohibited items, extortion, rude behavior, and use of mobile phones while on duty.

Recently, OTS personnel received their salary adjustment under the Salary Standardization law V (SSL V).

OTS personnel with Salary grade 4 receives a P15,586 pay; salary grade 11, P27,000; and salary grade 15, to P36,619 (SS0 supervisor).

Marquez said Aplasca would like to assure everyone that the OTS management would exhaust all available means to correct the lapses in operations by nurturing a new culture of professionalism, integrity and commitment to public service.

“We, therefore, encourage the public to report or send us an e-mail at pio@ots.gov.ph, kapag may mga reklamo po sa mga tao naming,” Marquez said.

Sen. Grace Poe, meanwhile, called the alleged extortion incident involving a Thai national at Naia infuriating and embarrassing, as she urged other victims to come out and file complaints.

“Nung nakita ko iyong video na ‘yun, talagang nakakagalit at nakakahiya,” Poe said in a statement.

“Isa na namang problema ito sa reputasyon ng Naia at ng ating airports,” she added.

Poe called on other victims of extortion or attempts by airport personnel to ask money, and those who have lost valuables in the process of baggage inspection and check-in to lodge formal complaints to determine the accountability of airport personnel.

Poe said the latest incident tarnished anew the already notorious reputation of Naia and could discourage tourists from visiting the country.

“Iyong turista na nga ang pumunta rito, iyong Thai national, ganito pa ang karanasan. Kung sino ang security na dapat poprotekta sa atin, sila pa ang gumagawa ng kalokohan,” she said.

Two months ago, she said one of her office staff lost a watch during baggage inspection.

“Ang ibang reklamo, pagdaan sa x-ray ng bagahe, paglabas, may nawawala na, parang may magician na now you see it, now you don’t,” she said.

The senator said aggrieved passengers should come forward and have their complaints documented. Naia should also make available relevant CCTV footages to aid in the investigation of complaints, including the case of the Thai national.

Image credits: Ninlawan Donlakkham | Dreamstime.com

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