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Asia Minute: Bullet Scam at Manila Airport

An Nguyen / Flickr
An Nguyen / Flickr

If you’re planning to travel to the Philippines any time soon, you should be aware of a new scam happening at Manila’s international airport.  It involves bullets, bags, and extortion. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Allegations are flying around Manila’s international airport that officials are planting bullets in people’s luggage - then demanding payment not to press criminal charges.  The Philippine news site reports the United Nations has warned its staff members to secure their luggage at the airport.  Other travelers have taken to wrapping their bags with tape so no one can tamper with them.

The story has dominated the news and exploded across social media around the Philippines.  Many cases cited in local stories in recent weeks involve one or two bullets discovered in the baggage of seemingly unlikely offenders—many of whom then paid cash to avoid the threat of legal action.  Those affected range from a teen-age girl flying to Korea for a singing competition to a domestic worker returning to Hong Kong to work, a Japanese tourist, an American missionary and dozens of others.

Government officials at first denied any wrong-doing by security personnel at the airport, but now say they are investigating.  Former Interior Secretary and current presidential candidate Manuel Roxas at first said it was unfair to blame the government…. but late this week he told reporters “the syndicates behind this must be held to account.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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