How to avoid being a victim of the laglag-bala scam
Nov 16, 2015
Protect yourself from becoming a victim of the bullet extortion scheme.
The “laglag-bala” or “tanim-bala” scheme allegedly involves airport security personnel who plant live ammunition or bala inside the luggage of passengers, mostly foreigners and OFWs. Once caught, passengers are asked to pay these personnel money so that a case won’t be filed against them.
To OFWs traveling to work abroad or for pleasure, here are some tips to avoid falling victim to this extortion scam:
- Never travel with prohibited items.
- If you are borrowing a bag or a luggage, check it first for any planted items such as bullets and drugs.
- Choose a hard shell luggage or bag that has no external pockets where things such as bullets can be inserted.
- If you can’t avoid using bags with pockets, secure them with plastic wrap after locking the zippers with durable locks or cable ties. There are cases where well-locked luggage can still be opened using a ball-point pen.
- Be wary of packages or items called “padala” especially if you have no idea of what the item is.
At the airport
- Be alert. As much as possible, carry your own luggage and bag and never lose sight of them to avoid other people from putting inside prohibited items such as bullets.
- Have your eyes on your luggage as it goes through security checks such as metal detectors and X-ray scan.
- If the airport security screening officer informs you that you have a bullet inside your bag, try to stay calm. Do not let him touch your bag and open it until there is a witness. Let the screening officer’s supervisor and your lawyer, if possible, be there first.
- Have the security screening officer go through your bag and retrieve the alleged bullet.
- Ask the authorities to do a fingerprint test on the bullet. If there is indeed a planted bullet, it will not have your fingerprints.
Know your legal rights
- Never pay an amount to be cleared of the alleged offense. Only judges can set bail.
- Remember that you have the right to remain silent. If airport officials make you admit or sign a document stating that you own the alleged bullet found in your bag, you can invoke your right to remain silent as mandated by law.
- You cannot be detained without due process of the law. You can file for a writ of habeas corpus or a complaint of arbitrary detention should this happen.