Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya on Thursday personally apologized to Gloria Ortinez, the OFW in danger of losing her job in Hong Kong after she was arrested at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for allegedly carrying a bullet.
Ortinez, 56, who has been working overseas for 26 years, denied that the bullet was hers. Her lawyer claimed she was a victim of the alleged “laglag bala” extortion racket of unscrupulous airport personnel.
After Thursday’s Senate hearing on the alleged modus, Abaya approached Ortinez, tapped her shoulder, and said, “Pasensiya na po.”
Abaya, before the hearing ended, said he believes some of those arrested over bullet possession at the NAIA, particularly those present at the Senate hearing, were innocent.
“From the very start noong nagsalita ako, naniniwala ako wala pong kasalanan sila Nanay Gloria at iba pang bisita natin,” he said.
Upon the suggestion of Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the blue ribbon committee, Abaya said he is willing to make his manifestation in a written form so that Ortinez and the other victims can present it to their employers.
“I do agree. I could write a letter right now, craft it, she could bring it with her. I could personally make a call to her employer, if I could get the number I would call the employer,” he said.
“Whatever Nanay Gloria would request me to do, I’ll do,” Abaya added.
Migrants’ rights advocate Susan Ople, who was also present in the hearing, lauded Abaya’s gesture but said he should back it up with actions.
“He does care, they just need to come up with actions that would match all these words so that people will start believing again,” said Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, which helped Ortinez in her legal case.
Abaya, who is among the officials receiving flak over the “laglag bala” scheme, admitted that they have committed “lapses” in keeping OFWs and other airline passengers safe and secure in airports.
“Obviously there are certain lapses,” he said. “May pagkukulang ang ating pamahalaan.”
“I don’t think any of our agencies ever said there is no crooked people in our agencies. You could see there are 12 people being investigated under AvSecGroup. Wala pong nagmamalinis dito and we assure all our OFWs listening that hindi po kami mag-aatubili, there is no reservation to file cases against erring personnel or terminate them from work,” he said.