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American seeks speedy ruling on ‘tanim-bala’ case

November 27, 2015 · 

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MISSION DELAYED, LIFE DISRUPTED Lane Michael White attendsWednesday’s hearing in a Pasay City court where he is charged with illegal possession of ammunition, an accusation that the 20-year-old American refutes by telling his ordeal as a “victim” of the socalled “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) extortion scheme at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. MARICAR BRIZUELA

The American national accused of sneaking a bullet into the airport—but who later complained of extortion and helped put the alleged “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) scam in the national limelight—asked a Pasay City court on Wednesday to speed up the resolution of the case against him, saying it had taken its toll on his health and his family.
Ernesto Arellano, legal counsel of Lane Michael White, said the case had left his client’s family “financially dislocated,” as he asked Judge Pedro de Leon Gutierrez of Pasay Regional Court Branch 119 to soon rule whether the 20-year-old violated the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.
White was caught allegedly carrying a .22-cal. bullet in his luggage at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Sept 17. He, his father Ryan who is a Christian missionary, and stepmother Eloisa Zoleta were then scheduled to fly to Coron, Palawan province, where they were planning to build a church.

Baggage inspectors Ma. Elma Cena and Marvin Garcia reported finding the bullet through an X-ray scanner at the domestic terminal. Denying the allegation, the American spent the next six days at the detention cell of the Aviation Security Command (Avsecom) of the Philippine National Police before he could post bail at P40,000.
His family, however, later claimed that SPO2 Rolando Clarin of Avsecom asked White to cough up P30,000 in exchange for his release, and that he was detained because he refused.
His case and that of several other passengers gave rise to the tanim-bala controversy, which later prompted a Senate inquiry and even responses from Malacañang. Earlier this week, President Aquino expressed doubts over the existence of such an organized extortion scheme and said the issue was sensationalized by the media.
“I hope the case gets dismissed soon so we can go back home,” White, who hails from Florida, told reporters Wednesday.
He said he had lost weight since his legal problems began and that he had just recovered from dengue fever. The Whites are currently staying with Zoleta’s mother in Parañaque City.
Arellano said that once the case is dismissed, the family would fly straight to Palawan to resume their missionary work.
According to the family’s Facebook page “White’s Mission,” the Whites had sold some of their properties in Florida to establish a ministry in the country and that White quit his job at a glass factory to help his parents with their plans in Palawan.
The Pasay City case, however, has put these plans on hold.
Cena and Garcia, the Naia bag inspectors, did not show up in the two hearings conducted by the court, though they submitted a reply through their lawyer insisting that the case should proceed.
In his Nov. 11 motion to have the case dismissed, Arellano argued that his client was victimized by a tanim-bala scam. He noted, for example, that security videos submitted in court showed White’s bag going through the X-ray machine more than five times before the bullet was spotted on the monitor.
“Garcia was also using his bare hands when searching the luggage instead of letting the owner unpack his belongings to check for the suspicious item,” Arellano added.
Judge Gutierrez gave White’s camp three days to reply to the airport inspectors’ comment. “Upon submission of the said reply, this motion to dismiss the case filed by the accused will be submitted for resolution,” he said.

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