Bullets to extort, scare, or shame? | Inquirer Opinion
Human Face

Bullets to extort, scare, or shame?

/ 12:26 AM November 05, 2015

Murderous, violent thoughts have been running through my head these past days every time I read or watch news about laglag/tanim-bala , or the alleged planting of bullets in the luggage of airline passengers who are detained by airport authorities, perhaps later to be charged with illegal possession of live ammunition.

I’ve been playing a movie in my mind where I am face to face with the culprit who got caught in flagrante delicto while planting a bullet in my hand luggage, and I am taking out my pitsikorno or brass knuckles and bashing the face of this culprit to a bloody pulp. Bam, bam, bam! Teeth and dentures fly in full view of the CCTV.


In another scene, I am eyeball to eyeball with the culprit who hangs his/her head in shame. “Please, look at me,” I plead ever so softly. “Why did you do this, and why me?” He/she looks at me with puppy dog eyes, refuses to talk, then smirks at my Mother Teresa approach. I gently reach out for his/her hand, I choose a finger, and, with the rage of an erupting volcano, I twist and detach the finger bone from its socket until the culprit cries out for mercy. Then, with the pitsikorno (a prohibited item, I suppose, but this is a movie of my own making), bam, bam, bam! Scum of the earth, @#$%?! I say in Filipino. See you in court.

It is just a movie in my cinematic mind. But I find myself hyperventilating while I am running it on my mental screen. I feel a slight rise in my blood pressure. I seethe. I am not a violent person in real life. Words and imagination are my only weapons. Well, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he would make these types swallow the bullets.


Now the scenario is changing. It seems that airport personnel are not necessarily the culprits, or the only culprits. In one case, the taxi driver who handled the luggage of an airport-bound passenger seemed to have planted a bullet, said the passenger who aborted his trip to the airport after getting suspicious. Sure enough, he found a bullet and posted a photo of this on Facebook. Or so he claimed.

I am not saying it is incredible. But why would a taxi driver plant a bullet in his passenger’s luggage? Is it mischief? Is he a sociopath? Is he in cahoots with someone in the airport who will zoom in on this particular hapless passenger while he goes through security checks? How could that come about? At what point does extortion happen?

What I find puzzling is that no culprit has been seen on CCTV, collared or confronted by a victim of extortion, if extortion was the motive.

A case several days ago showed a bullet deeply hidden in an elderly passenger’s handbag. It was her lawyer, who had rushed to the rescue, who removed the bullet from the stitched up (not simply zipped up) bag pocket. So how did the bullet get there? This seems straight out of a magician’s hat, or simply sleight of hand. Was the handbag owned by someone else, a borrowed one? Warning: Check suitcases and travel bags that you borrow.

When news broke about laglag/tanim-bala, there was only one scenario, a simple one that made us angry. An airline passenger’s luggage (usually hand-carried) that is going through the X-ray machine is found to contain a bullet. And so the passenger is held, interrogated or detained by security officials. (Even while I am writing this, TV news is featuring two stories about bullets found in the luggage of two passengers. In one case, a woman admitted she owned the bullet. She had found it somewhere, she said, but she didn’t know carrying ammunition was prohibited. There.)

Plastic-wrapped luggage with warning notes pasted on them by irate or fearful passengers is now a common sight in Philippine airports.  The more sarcastic the sign, the better. This could be grist for a sitcom or gag show if it were not pathetic. Now I am laughing while imagining what I would write to ward off laglag/tanim-bala. The plastic wrapping business in airports (P160 per suitcase) is raking it in.  Don’t tell me…

There seems to be more to this series of embarrassing happenings in the airports than meets the eye. But these cases, we are told, did not suddenly become certain people’s favorite income-generating activity. There had been cases in the past. Was someone ever caught and punished? More victims should come forward to tell us about the extortion.


Another thing: I didn’t know that carrying live bullets as amulets is a superstitious practice among Filipino travelers.  I have never heard of bullets being worn by travelers as a protective item. Do bandits and members of private armies and so-called lost commands use them?

If it was superstition or ignorance on the part of those who were really caught with live bullets in their luggage and who were not victims of laglag/tanim-bala, what was the motive of those who planted the bullets on the innocent? Besides extortion, what other motives could there be?

One cannot help but suspect that there might be motives other than to afflict the innocent/ignorant and to extort. Is there is a hidden agenda in all this, like sow fear and arouse suspicion and thereby create an embarrassing situation? Already, this shameful scenario has gotten the foreign media interested, if not aghast. Isn’t the government red-faced?

Meanwhile, fearful, worried Filipinos traveling abroad show their disgust and suspicion by getting their belongings plastic-wrapped. These wraps have become symbolic of how they feel. How painful it is to hear departing Filipinos say that right here in their homeland, they cannot trust fellow Filipinos.  They leave feeling hurt, even betrayed.

I reiterate my suspicion: There is more to laglag/tanim-bala than meets the eye.

* * *

Send feedback to [email protected] or www.ceresdoyo.com.

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TAGS: bullet planting, bullet scam, laglag bala, Naia, tanim bala
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