MANILA (Mabuhay) – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago on Friday urged his colleagues to raise penalties against perpetrators of the alleged “laglag bala” extortion racket or any person who would plant bullets or firearms as evidence.
Defensor said she will file a bill seeking to amend Republic Act 10591, or the “Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act,” by increasing the penalty against planting evidence if committed by a private individual.
If approved, the amendment means that a person found guilty of inserting, placing, or attaching a bullet, a firearm, or parts of either, with the intent of incriminating another, may be punished with imprisonment for 12 years and one day up to 20 years or reclusion temporal.
At present, the penalty for planting evidence is prision mayor or imprisonment for six years and one day to 12 years, except when the person found guilty is a public official or employee, in which case, the penalty is reclusion perpetua or imprisonment for 20 years and one day to 40 years.
“The government must send a clear message to these airport syndicates that it will not tolerate these criminal activities and will prosecute those who plant evidence with as much zeal as it pursues those who smuggle firearms and ammunition,” Santiago said.
She made the statement a day after the Senate hearing on the “laglag-bala” scam.
She said even if proposed amendments to RA No. 10591 decriminalize possession of not more than three bullets, the “tanim-bala” operations can still persist, simply by increasing the number of ammunition planted.
Santiago, a presidential candidate in the 2016 elections, said her proposal is based on the observation that the modus operandi starts as soon as a person is identified to be a passenger whose luggage would have to be inspected.
Porters, luggage handlers, and taxi drivers are believed to take part in the scam.
“The law must punish those who, in the guise of upholding peace and order, abuse the law to prey on the innocent, whether these offenders are public officers or private citizens,” said Santiago, author of one of the resolutions calling for a Senate hearing on the airport controversy. (MNS)