Because of the infamous laglag-bala (drop-a-bullet) scam in Philippine airports, the Aquino government is back in the global spotlight exactly two years after its wobbly response to the devastation of super typhoon “Yolanda” generated headlines in international media organizations.
The racket, wherein airport security officers covertly drop live ammunition into the belongings of unsuspecting travelers, has been reported in various Western media outlets including BBC, CNN, and Time Magazine. Adding insult to injury, Greta Van Susteren, an anchor for popular American network Fox News, discussed the issue for two consecutive nights.
Speaking on her show On The Record last November 5, Van Susteren warned her audience who may be planning to go to the Philippines about the scheme. “International travelers are being targeted by Filipino airport security officials who plant live ammunition in their luggage,” she said, adding that she was told about it by a Filipino-American friend.
“They’re even holding some passengers for days, telling them they can pay a fine or sit in the slammer facing charges,” Van Susteren said, explaining that all these is part of a plot to extort money out of the international travelers.
According to her, there has been 30 drop-a-bullet incidents recorded in the last 12 months while five international passengers have been arrested in the past two weeks. The issue gained traction in late September when Lane Michael White, a 20-year-old American missionary from Florida, came forward and narrated his victimization.
The following night, Van Susteren talked about the “laglag-bala” issue again. “The Philippine government knows all about this scam and has not stopped it,” she said, before asking rhetorically: “Do governments even care to do what is right when the problem is so obvious?”
Getting bad publicity in any foreign media outlet is bad in itself. What makes Van Susteren’s back-to-back nights of highlighting the “laglag-bala” issue is the fact that Fox News is the highest-rated cable news channel in the United States. And since Van Susteren’s program airs during prime time, chances are, millions of Americans are now aware of this embarrassing scandal.