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Septuagenarian couple held for bullet possession at Philippines premier airport

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport © rappler.com
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport © rappler.com

AIRPORT security personnel arrested a septuagenarian couple for “possession of a bullet” while waiting for their California bound commercial plane early this week.

Esteban Cortabista, 78, and his wife Salvacion Cortabista, 75, were on their way to the boarding lounge of their Los Angeles bound Korean Air flight last Tuesday when they were stopped and later apprehended by members of the Office for Transportation Security. The arrests happened after their carry on bag allegedly yielded a .38 caliber bullet at the final security check point.

The visibly shocked husband and wife denied owning the bullet. They said they knew about the prohibition in bringing in bullets, even for souvenir purposes, at the airport as it is their second time to travel to the United States so “why would we bring bullets?”

The Cortabistas also expressed wonder why security allowed them to pass the initial security check at the departure lobby if there was a bullet found in their carry-on bag.

 “We were allowed to pass the initial security and our luggage were cleared at the first x-ray machine. I think this is clear that we are victims of ‘bullet planting’ scam,” Esteban stressed.

The couple was later brought to the NAIA medical clinic for check-up after Salvacion complain of difficulty in breathing after her blood pressure rose. She is reportedly suffering from hypertension. 

Police Aviation Security Group said the couple was brought to the Department of Justice for further investigation.

The “bullet planting scam” or “laglag bala modus” has been a worsening problem at the NAIA. Scalawag security and airport personnel are known to “plant bullets” on the luggage unsuspecting travelers to extort money from them.

Benjie Vergara
A veteran reporter covering the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. He is currently writing for Manila Times, the Philippines' oldest newspaper.

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