Let’s fix ‘tanim-bala,’ but not to forget society’s bigger ills | Inquirer Opinion

Let’s fix ‘tanim-bala,’ but not to forget society’s bigger ills

12:03 AM November 09, 2015

WE SHOULD all condemn the dastardly criminal acts of a few in our airports and other public transport hubs, and urge the concerned authorities, most especially our transport leaders, to urgently address such problems.

Like the “tanim-bala” scam. This has enraged the general public and has drawn the attention of even the foreign press, more so that the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation is fast approaching. Without question, “tanim-bala” now also threatens to thwart our tourism thrusts.


This may look like plain thievery, a hare-brained extortion scheme gone out of control. But it could also be something deeper—like another case of economic or political sabotage by a handful of cunning and heartless opportunists (who may or may not be airport employees). And they are preying on hapless OFWs, unsuspecting tourists and the country as a whole.

Or could this be, yet again, another “microcosm” of the Philippines’ state of affairs that an impatient and utterly disillusioned few are exploiting, in conspiracy with veteran thieves and hardened criminals, thinking that their crime is nothing compared to those of plundering officials in the higher echelons of government and business?


Ordinary people are immediately taken into interrogation or custody for a mere possession of a single bullet, while not a single high government official who has stolen big, in millions—even billions—of pesos, has been really jailed, much less convicted.

As a former airport official who has done my share of public service and seen unselfish, honest and creditable, if not excellent, work habits up close and personal at my formerly “Smiling Airport,” it pains me no end to realize that all our public servants, including the very conscientious ones, are again being dragged into embarrassment and are unfairly pictured. Let us, by all means, help solve problems like this by getting to the root causes of such wrongs, and punish those who are responsible for them, however high they are.

Let us not assail institutions just for the sake of assailing institutions. This is precisely what the wrongdoers in society want: when something in government goes wrong and institutions get blamed, pilloried and tainted as a result—so that the real, big-time, habitual criminals get to enjoy their loot for the rest of their life, and “launder” a lot more of it down to their families for generations to come. Yes, no thanks to the snail-paced judicial setup that is favorable only to the rich and powerful, the far bigger and worse crimes against society are left unpunished and continue to be committed.

We should be more vigilant. And we should know who our real enemies are and run after them.

—TIRSO G. SERRANO, former assistant general manager, Airport Development and Corporate Affairs, Manila International Airport Authority and Ninoy Aquino International Airport, [email protected]

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