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DOTr Sec. Bautista sad and disappointed over ’embarassing’ OTS swallowing incident

Jaime Bautista
DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista reacts to the incident of an OTS personnel swallowing money taken from a departing Chinese passenger. (JERRY S. TAN)

“I am saddened and very disappointed for such embarrassing deeds.”

This was the reaction issued by Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista after learning of the incident about a security screening officer from the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) swallowing dollar bills allegedly taken from a departing Chinese passenger.

“She is now being investigated and appropriate sanctions will be meted to her,” he said. Tne OTS is headed by Ma. O Aplasca Bautista, who is currently abroad attending an official function, said he will be back in Manila on September 21.

Investigation by airport authorities showed that last September 8, 2023, a departing Chinese passenger put his bag on a tray that went through the final security check area. The suspect SSO brought the tray containing said bag to the inspection table and conducted a manual search.

“When the SSO finished inspecting, she ‘suspiciously turned away while apparently holding something in her left hand with her fist tightly-closed… she then swiftly placed something on her left torso/waist area and went back to the inspection table,’ stated a report about the incident.

The complainant returned to the screening area when he discovered that his wallet was open and had several bills missing, triggering a confrontation between the complainant and the SSO, her supervisor, a passenger service agent, a male Philippine National Police member and one from the Airport Police Department.

In another footage, a male x-ray operator was seen handing over a bottled water to the suspect SSO, who turned her back but was unaware that she was actually facing a camera. She was clearly seen deliberately swallowing the dollar bills folded into one small piece, while ignoring a lady passenger behind her who was making an inquiry.

The male supervisor then approached the suspect SSO and “was seemingly communicating with her as the latter was obviously almost choking in her effort to swallow the dollar bills while using her hanky to cover her mouth.”

According to the findings of probers from the airport, the SSO, her supervisor and the x-ray operator appeared to be in connivance.

About six months ago, or on February 22, five personnel of the OTS assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 were suspended after two videos of them taking money from a transiting Thai tourist identified as Kitja Thabthim, went viral on social media. The amount involved was 40,000 yen.

Days later, another screening officer was caught on video stealing a Chinese passenger’s watch at the NAIA.

Passenger Sun Yuhong complained that his watch was missing in his bag after he was screened by Valeriano Ricaplaza Jr., who was later nabbed by members of the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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