Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Law enforcement mess at NAIA

The police security personnel who fetched NBN-ZTE key witness Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada after his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, after a week-long trip from Hong Kong, should have turned him over to the Senate arresting team instead of being whisked away without the knowledge of his family who was waiting at the arrival area of the NAIA.

The mess turned out to be another insult to the Senate committees that issued the warrant of arrest for Mr. Lozada, after he failed to appear before a public hearing for him to shed more light on the anomalous ZTE transaction. This only goes to show that among the three branches of government, the executive branch is more powerful that the two--judiciary and the legislature--because it had succeeded in ordering the police to take control of the key witness.
And it appears that the police are invoking miscommunication as the cause of it all. But some doubting-Thomases thought otherwise. They suspected that there was a premeditated plan to silence the key witness forever so that he wouldn't be able to divulge everything he knew about the ZTE scandal.

For his part, Natural Resources and Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza had admitted that he was the one who called the police to provide security protection to Lozada, after the latter sought Atienza's help being his top boss at the DENR. Lozada is the president and CEO of the Philippine Forest Corporation, a subsidiary of the Natural Resources Corporation of the Philippines, an attached agency of the DENR.

Under the Constitution, the three branches of government are co-equal in so far as power is concerned. Butfrom what happened at NAIA, it seemed the police, which is under the executive branch, had dictated the course of events that unfolded at the NAIA and totally undermined the presence of Senate arresting team. It goes to show that the police security personnel who fetched Lozada are like tamed dogs who had to follow orders from their trainers no matter what the costs are thus undermining the standard operating procedures in law enforcement administration.

Now the real conflict arises. Security personnel at the international airport should be autonomous in so far as functions are concerned. The Aviation Security Command of the Philippine Air Force is there not for the sole purpose of securing the airport premises from any terrorist acts. But on matters that pertain to airport administration and control, it should be the airport management authority. Taking the cue from the scandal, it seemed likely that there is a need to craft a law that will make the airport management authority independent from any outside influence as what the Transportation Security Administration is doing in the United States.

Access to the airport tubes must be limited only to authorized security personnel and ranking officials of the airport authority. In this way, unscrupulous individuals who are suspected to sow shenanigans inside the airport premises should be restricted from getting inside sensitive areas of the airport. And those who have warrants of arrest for arriving passengers must wait outside the arrival area. Or it could be that the warrant officers should closely coordinate the matter to the airport management so that authorized airport personnel can accompany them inside. There were instances in the past and even up to the present when even media personnel are given access pass to restricted areas of the international airport. And some sinister individuals are using these access passes to facilitate illegal activities in exchange for financial favors.

At the moment, there is so much confusions going on inside the international airport considering that many government agencies had posted their personnel inside the airport premises. Among these personnel are those representing the immigration bureau, customs, labor officials (POEA and OWWA), health department, and the Aviation Security Command of the Philippine Air Force. Not to be missed is the airport security police under the Office of the General Manager of the airport authority.

In the case of Lozada, the airport police should have a hand in securing the key witness while he was inside the airport premises and then later turn him over to the arresting parties. Isn't this overlapping of law enforcement functions because the airport management had closed its eyes on what it was supposed to do simply because somebody at the top had ordered the matter even if it violates proper protocol and the constitutional rights of the key witness. Is this the kind of law enforcement ideals that the Philippines has in this modern times?

In the first place, the international airport general manager should have delicadeza and must stick to his gun whenever a case like this arises in the future. Because it will not only reflect on his character as a person but on the way he runs things inside the international airport premises. Don't wait until anybody should tell you that you don't have "balls" of a real man. Nowadays, what matters most is the job and forget about a man's principles in life.

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