It has been revealed in recent days that Manila’s international airport- until recently rated the worst in the world in terms of service and professionalism- has become a hotbed of extortion by airport officials. The favored scam has been to ‘discover’ bullets in peoples’ luggage and then demand huge on-the-spot fines. The typical sting has been 30,000 pesos, which is about $700. Yet in some cases the fines have gone as high as an eye-watering $2000. This has been happening all year and the victims have included elderly women and a South Korean teenager. If you resist, you will go to prison and they will not let you unless you post ever higher sums in bail.
The scale of the extortion has been incredible and local travellers have long been in fear of the airport it seems. There were an unbelievable 2,184 cases of planted bullets in 2013 alone and 1.394 cases so far this year. That means the airport staff have been planting bullets and bullet casings at a rate of five or six a day. There have been more than 5,000 cases reported in total, meaning that millions of dollars in extortion have been taken by corrupt Filipino officials. It is an outrage and hopefully now it has been fully exposed tourists will start avoiding the country, making the government clean up its act. But until now the official reaction from the government has been astonishing callousness and indifference.
In a news briefing last week,Transport Secretary Joseph Abaya said the situation seems to “have been blown out of proportion”. He added that the number of passengers apprehended for cases involving live ammunition was just 0.004 per cent of Manila airport’s total annual traffic of 34.2 million! Well, that’s a relief isn’t it!
The thing is, the reaction of Abaya is typical of the corrupt South-East Asian elites. The whole system is based on extorting illegal bribes and fees from the populace. Rather than serving the people, they steal and rob from them, feeding off them like parasites. And that’s all this scam is- parasitic feeding off the populace. But people like Mr Abaya are so complicit in corrupt authority that they simply don’t have ordinary reactions to the most flagrant abuses of power. 5000 people being arrested, traumatized and treated like criminals should be a national shame for the country, but the man responsible can’t even understand what the fuss is about. Stealing from ordinary people is the whole reason unscrupulous people such as himself go into government. He actually accuses other people of being unreasonable for over-reacting to the abuses. Mr Abaya should resign- he is a disgrace to the office he holds.