Senators seek tighter airport security checks for VIPs

Philippines Senators have pressed officials of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) to impose tighter security measures on its processing of VIPs before they are allowed to fly out of the country, fearing that the current system has bred corruption among government airport personnel and allowed the proliferation of criminal activities.

At the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing, Sen. Raffy Tulfo berated airport officials led by Cesar Chiong, general manager of the MIAA, following the latter’s admission that lapses were indeed committed in the handling of foreign passengers of an outbound flight on the evening of Feb. 13.

“Based on the initial investigation by our MIAA team, there were indeed lapses: the first one is that only the name of the driver of the vehicle was checked at the airport gates and not the passengers,” Chiong said.

The security guards also failed to record the licence plate of vehicles that entered the restricted area of the airport, and the passengers inside the vehicle, Chiong added.
Tulfo said that the MIAA must set up a processing centre for all VIP passengers, so that they, too, can go through the same processes just like regular passengers.

Tulfo made the remark as the Senate blue ribbon committee launched its inquiry into the Feb. 13 incident wherein a Dubai-bound private jet was supposedly allowed to take off even without prior clearance from the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group (PNP-ASG).

Senators led by Sen. Francis Tolentino grilled airport officials for the “special treatment” they supposedly gave to seven foreign passengers of the Dubai-bound flight by allowing them to depart despite the protest of the PNP-ASG.

Hinting that there was corruption in the handling of VIP passengers, Tulfo said the incident was exposed only because one party of the alleged conspiracy of government personnel supposedly got swindled, prompting the person to take video footage of the ensuing commotion at the tarmac.

“I believe this involves some sort of a turf war, wherein one party felt defrauded so that the owner of the video felt so provoked that he or she had to take a video. But thanks to him or her, because of the footage, now we’re here,” he said.

Tulfo pushed for the “suspension or cancellation” of the licence of Globan Aviation Services Corp., the ground handler of the questioned flight, for its supposed involvement in a prior case—the botched escape of two executives of Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Inc.