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OTS: Airport screening officers relieved from duty for alleged extortion

Several airport screening officers (SSOs) were relieved from duty after they allegedly extorted money from a foreigner at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 last February 22, the Office for Transportation Security said on Monday.

The OTS said in a Facebook post that the money taken from the foreigner amounted to ¥20,000 or around P8,000.

"The OTS took immediate actions to identify the involved SSOs. Subsequently, they were relieved from their duty and were placed under preventive suspension," added the OTS.

Investigators were meanwhile preparing to file the appropriate administrative cases against the involved SSOs.

The OTS said they would also pursue a criminal case against the relieved personnel and asked the foreign national's full cooperation to expedite the filing of an "airtight case."

"[These] illegal acts will not be tolerated, and we will apply the full force of the law to penalize the perpetrators. They shall not only be dismissed from the service but shall also be put behind bars for their criminal acts that tarnish the reputation and integrity not only of OTS but the entire country in general," the OTS statement read.

Videos of the alleged extortion incident were posted on Facebook last week.

In the first video taken at a security checkpoint, the SSOs allegedly inserted something inside their pockets.

The second video shows a foreigner asking the SSO to return his money. After the female officer returned the money, the SSO allegedly asked the person taking the video to delete the recording.

The OTS said "corrupt acts" were undermining and negating the government's efforts to invite tourists and investors to come to the Philippines to pump prime the economy.

"We would like to assure everyone that the OTS management will exhaust all available strategies to correct the lapses in our operations by nurturing a new culture of professionalism, integrity and commitment for public service," the OTS said.

Since July 2022, the OTS said it has been implementing an internal cleansing program which resulted in the dismissal of 14 erring personnel.

So far, three personnel had been suspended, while six cases were being resolved by the OTS legal service.

The said cases involved violation of the OTS' No Tipping Policy, violation in the proper disposal of intercepted prohibited items, extortion, rude behavior, and use of a mobile phone while on duty, the OTS said.

While she tagged the incident as "infuriating and embarrassing," Senate public services committee chairperson Grace Poe said airport security personnel might have resorted to doing these illegal acts due to inadequate compensation.

Poe asked  the OTS and the Manila International Airport Authority to give updates on the incident and the actual CCTV footage of the incident.

Should there be more reports of extortion incidents, Poe said the Senate public services committee can launch an inquiry. DVM/NB, GMA Integrated News