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NAIA official suspended after allegedly stealing, swallowing passenger's money; DOTr launches investigation

By NICK GARCIA Published Sep 21, 2023 10:42 am

A security official at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has been suspended after allegedly stealing $300 (P17,000) from a Chinese passenger and swallowing the bills.

According to the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), which manages NAIA, a closed circuit television footage showed the passenger, a certain Mr. Cai, placing his shoulder bag on the airport's inspection tray.

The Office of Transportation Security (OTS) employee can be seen doing a manual search on his bag, and then “suspiciously turned away while apparently holding something in left hand with her fist tightly closed," according to the MIAA.

She then "swiftly placed" something in her waist area and went back to the inspection table.

Mr. Cai returned to the area upon realizing that his wallet was open and his money was missing.

He talked to the official, but turned her back on him.

In another CCTV footage, the MIAA said the officer was “clearly seen deliberately swallowing the dollar bills, folded into one small piece." She then covered her mouth with a handkerchief.

The official was apparently struggling to swallow the money despite drinking water from a bottle given by her colleague, the MIAA said.

Her supervisor also approached her, “seemingly communicating with her” as she was “almost choking in her effort to swallow the dollar bills” to “apparently ensure that the bills were properly disposed of," the agency added.

The official denied the allegations.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said it's investigating the incident, assuring the public that the official in question will be meted appropriate sanctions.

The MIAA has suspended the screener and her supervisor. It also confiscated her seasonal access pass pending the results of the investigation.

OTS Administrator Ma. O Aplasca, meanwhile, said the official cannot be arrested because she wasn't caught in the act, though can support the filing of an administrative case against the official.

Since March, airport officials have been prohibited from having pockets over cases of stealing.