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OFW group, Roxas tussle over ‘laglag bala’

A militant pro-migrants' rights group on Wednesday slammed administration standard bearer Mar Roxas for his statement linking the so-called "laglag bala" extortion racket in airports to a possible demolition job against the government.

In a statement, Migrante-Middle East coordinator John Leonard Monterona said Roxas' statement was "unconvincing, a pure scapegoat of the government inaction and inefficiency to solve" the extortion scheme supposedly victimizing travelers and OFWs.

"With the vast government intelligence networks, within 24 hours authorities can pinpoint leads and nabbed those behind the 'laglag bala,' dig deeper on what really the intent of these bad elements behind it," he said.

"Why it took the problem to fester for over 8 weeks and victimizing innocent OFWs and foreign travelers? If the 'laglag bala' incidents have not been reported to media, then it will just be like to continue victimizing more," Monterona added.

He said Migrante chapters in the Middle East will be actively pushing for 'Laglag Mar,' a 'no vote' campaign against Roxas in the 2016 elections.

Mar: That's up to them

Roxas, for his part, just shrugged off Monterona's tirade.

Interviewed by reporters in Cauayan City in Isabela province, Roxas said it is within Migrante or any group's rights to vote as they pleased. He also refused to give weight to the group's statements.

"Para sa Migrante at iba pang samahan, karapatan naman nilang na bumoto o hindi bumoto sa kahit na sinong kandidato. So iniiwan ko na lang sa kanila 'yun," he said.

Roxas insisted that it is the government's responsibility to seize contraband items, including bullets, from airline passengers. He said this way, Filipinos are protected from heavier punishment abroad.

"'Di policy ng pamahalaan, 'di policy ng Daang Matuwid ang magsamantala, o gumawa ng pangongotong, o maglaglag droga, maglaglag bala, laglag kahit na ano sa ating mga kababayan," he said.

Roxas also said that the alleged extortion scheme is now being investigated by authorities.

Roxas was in Cauayan, Isabela, on Wednesday to witness the distribution of seeds and cash assistance to corn farmers affected by Typhoon Lando.

"Accidental election issue"

Meanwhile, Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles urged President Aquino anew to replace Honrado Tuesday as he expressed his disappointment at the “excuses and imaginary conspiracy theories” peddled by the government to the public for the supposed extortion scheme occurring in the country’s airports even after it has caught the attention of international media.

"This laglag-bala issue is an accidental election issue which could impact on Secretary Roxas' candidacy if not handled well by the administration. There are no conspiracies here but plainly, this is a result of Honrado's lousy performance as MIAA General Manager," he said.

Nograles even challenged Aquino and Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya to conduct a survey at the airport to measure Honrado's credibility and competence as MIAA head.

"I'm pretty sure things will immediately get better if Honrado is removed and replaced with a competent and trustworthy airport manager. We will definitely have a safer and better NAIA  and at the same time, this will be a redemption for the administration candidates,” he said.  —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News