DOTr chief: 19 OTS personnel fired for stealing from airline passengers
MANILA, Philippines — Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista has revealed that since July 2022, some 19 personnel of the Office of the Transportation Security (OTS), which is an attached agency of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), have been fired because they were caught stealing from airline passengers.
The Sept. 8 incident at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport of an OTS screener being caught on a security camera allegedly swallowing $300 in bills that she supposedly stole from a Chinese tourist was among the 19 personnel that were fired.
The viral video was yet another black eye on the country’s main international gateway, which had been tagged before by a vacation rental management firm as among the world’s worst airports.
Senator Poe on next OTS chief
Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe believes the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) should be headed next by someone with “immense political will to overhaul the agency.”
The latest theft controversy involving some of its security officers prompted the resignation of OTS Administrator Ma.O Aplasca on Tuesday.
Poe, however, said: “A resignation at the top does not clean up its ranks.”
Zero Tolerance for criminal acts
“Hindi lang dapat umaaksyon kapag tapos na ang insidente. There should be zero tolerance for criminal acts and unprofessional behavior,” the head of the Senate committee on public services said in a statement on Wednesday.
The committee was also referring to the latest incident where a security officer at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport was recently caught on CCTV swallowing a wad of $300 allegedly stolen from a passenger.
“The challenge now is for the leadership to appoint someone with immense political will to overhaul the agency and stop these incidents once and for all,” Poe said.
Although a “witch-hunt might put a syndicate on pause,” the senator stressed the urgent need for the OTS to review and tighten its security program.
Some reforms needed
She enumerated some of the following reforms needed to prevent corruption and other irregularities among airport and security workers:
- Improve the physical layout of the security screening stations and provide proactive measures to prevent any further incidents.
- Improve OTS’s system at the point of hiring, review its recruitment policies, and enforce ethics training. Employees, she said, must undergo extensive background checks.
- Use a portion of airport security fees being collected by the OTS “to compensate passengers who have well-founded claims” against its erring employees
- In the long-term, provide better compensation and benefits to employees “so they would not be enticed to do this nonsense.”
More than half of OTS manpower are contractual personnel
The senator noted that as of July 2023, more than half of the OTS manpower are still contractual personnel, with only 475 with permanent status.
“The permanent solution is still to give security of tenure and increase the salary of highly-skilled technical personnel in our airports,” Poe said.| with reports from Maila Ager
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