9:56 PM | Thursday, May 28th, 2015A US-bound passenger was arrested on Thursday morning by the aviation police for allegedly trying to smuggle in a grenade and a knife at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Filipino-American widower Cipriano De Guzman, 58, of Orlando, Florida, told airport security officials that he had no idea how the MK2 fragmentation grenade and a kitchen knife ended up in his backpack, short of claiming the items were planted.
Supt. Ricardo Layug, Jr., head of the Aviation Security Group-National Capital Region (Avsegroup-NCR), said the suspect, despite his claim, would face charges of illegal possession of an explosive and of a bladed weapon in the Pasay City prosecutor’s office.
Layug said that De Guzman, holder of an American passport, had already checked in for an 11 a.m. Taipei-bound China Airlines aircraft for a connecting flight to the US when he was accosted at around 6:30 a.m. Thursday at the NAIA terminal 1 departure area.
“He (De Guzman) had checked into the flight after going through the initial x-ray scanner but went out again carrying a backpack to go to the public toilet outside the passenger area,” Layug explained.
He told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that a review of the closed circuit TV footage showed that De Guzman was in the public toilet for two minutes after which he tried to reenter the NAIA departure area through the exit.
Airport security personnel prevented him from going through the exit, directing him to pass through the passenger entrance where he had to again go through the initial security screening.
The moment De Guzman’s backpack went through the x-ray scanner, security screening officers Nolasco Abangco and Enrique Cruz called his attention to a knife-shaped item as well as something that resembled a grenade inside his bag, and directed him to open the backpack for inspection.
De Guzman was arrested by Avsegroup personnel after Cruz found the live MK2 grenade and a kitchen knife in the backpack. The grenade was turned over to the Avsegroup’s Explosives and Ordinance Division.
The Avsegroup-NCR chief told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that it was too soon to speculate on why the suspect tried to smuggle an explosive and a knife into the airport but said that he was not buying De Guzman’s claim that he did not know how the items ended up in his bag.
“He (De Guzman) said that somebody must have put the items inside his backpack while he was in the toilet but that is hard to believe. He did not have to go out to the public restroom because there is a toilet available for passengers who have already checked into the flights,” Layug pointed out.
Layug said that De Guzman, who claims he is a retailer in the US, arrived in the country in April for a vacation and stayed with a friend in Taguig City.
“The suspect comes here annually for a vacation after he migrated to the US in 1974. He got his green card in 2006,” he told the Inquirer.
Asked if the suspect could have intended to hijack an aircraft, Layug said, “We cannot jump to conclusions. He is claiming he did not know how the items got to his backpack. We will have to base our findings on the evidence.”
Nevertheless, the Avsegroup-NCR chief said that while De Guzman claimed to be travelling alone, they would investigate if he had accomplices who could have given the grenade and the knife to the suspect inside the toilet.
Incidentally a five-man audit team of the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) arrived in the country on Tuesday night for an assessment of the safety and security operations in the NAIA and in Philippine commercial airlines with direct flights to the US.
The TSA will observe from June 1 to 3 security operations and passenger safety measures at the NAIA. With a report from Christine Rhea Lectura, intern/SFM
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