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Manila Airport Bullet-Planting Shakedown Sparks Anger

Passengers at Manila airport with anti-scam stickers.
Passengers at Manila airport with anti-scam stickers.

A scam at the Manila International Airport, involving security personnel planting bullets in the luggage of unsuspecting passengers to extort money, caused outrage throughout the Philippines earlier this month.

As reported by KBR, carrying a single bullet on the Southeast Asian island is illegal. Several Filipino and foreign passengers have claimed in recent weeks that airport security staff asked them to pay a fee — ranging from $12 to $600 — for them to turn a blind eye after "finding" ammunition in their bags. Those who refused to pay the bribe were detained and taken to court.

After legislators started denouncing the scheme, known as laglag-bala ("drop bullet"), Filipino President Benigno Aquino III ordered an investigation into the matter and authorities created a public help desk at the Manila International Airport.

But the Filipino public didn't await the investigation's outcome before expressing outrage. Passengers have started attaching notices to their bags that say "this bag is bullet-proof" or wrapping their luggage in plastic cling wrap to prevent bullets being planted.

The scandal even inspired the creation of a mobile game in which users have to avoid bullets being dropped into their bags while going through airport security. Alma Cabasal, former Miss Philippines Earth, also asked airport staff to "plant trees, not bullets," and the boxer Manny Pacquiao, who is also a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, has offered legal advice to victims of the scheme.

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Geopolitics

Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023

Before heading to South Sudan to continue his highly anticipated trip to Africa, the pontiff was in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he delivered a powerful speech, in a country where 40 million Catholics live.

Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023
Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — You may know the famous Joseph Stalin quote: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?” Pope Francis still has no military divisions to his name, but he uses his voice, and he does so wisely — sometimes speaking up when no one else would dare.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (the former Belgian Congo, a region plundered and martyred, before and after its independence in 1960), Francis has chosen to speak loudly. Congo is a country with 110 million inhabitants, immensely rich in minerals, but populated by poor people and victims of brutal wars.

That land is essential to the planetary ecosystem, and yet for too long, the world has not seen it for its true value.

The words of this 86-year-old pope, who now moves around in a wheelchair, deserve our attention. He undoubtedly said what a billion Africans are thinking: "Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: It is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered!"

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