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Airport official in NBN-ZTE mess suspended for human smuggling

April 7, 2010 3:25pm
An airport official implicated in the Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment-National Broadband Network (ZTE-NBN) controversy was suspended from his post for alleged human smuggling, QTV's Balitanghali said Wednesday.

The Manila International Aiport Authority (MIAA) placed retired Brig. Gen. Angel Atutubo under preventive suspension for reportedly allowing 80 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to leave the country. Atutubo used to be the airport authority’s assistant general manager for security and emergency.

Filipino workers were caught onboard eight vehicles and were suspected to be smuggled out of the country to East Timor.



MIAA general manager Melvin Matibag said Atutubo has already been asked to provide an explanation regarding the incident.

"I ordered him to explain within 24 hours why he made an order to allow the entry of those eight vehicles with 70 OFWs to be chartered to East Timor," he said.

But Atutubo told GMA News that he only approved the departure of the eight vehicles and not of the 80 OFWs.

"Hintayin na lang natin ang investigation dahil wala naman kaming inaprubahan [Let's await the investigation because we did not approve anything]," Atutubo said.

The MIAA stressed that Atutubo also violated airport policies when he allowing OFWs to go on the runway — which is usually off limits to outsiders.

ZTE deal key witness Rodolfo Lozada Jr, left, is seen in this CCTV photo being escorted out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport departure area by MIAA security chief Gen. Angel Atutubo. GMANews.TV/File
Atutubo could eventually face administrative and criminal charges, and ultimately risk losing his post, Matibag said.

Atutubo was the same airport official who was caught on a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera escorting Senate whistleblower Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada out of the the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City on February 5, 2008.

Lozada was the former president of the state-controlled Philippine Forest Corp. who alleged that the $329.48-million national broadband network project was riddled with bribery and corruption.

Upon returning to Manila from Hong Kong, Atutubo reportedly led Lozada to the NAIA's tarmac and into a vehicle that brought the Senate witness south of Luzon and away from Manila. - Mark D. Merueñas, GMANews.TV