NO pocket? No jacket? No problem! One’s mouth can be the next hiding place. It pains me to say this, but some Filipinos can ingeniously come up with nifty ways to commit a crime. The airport screening officer caught on camera shoveling paper bills in her mouth is the latest talk-of-the-town, causing pandemonium all-over social media.
This comes just after the February hullabaloo involving other screening personnel taking money and a watch from foreigners at the very same beleaguered international airport. Following the string of “inside jobs” offenses, concerned airport agencies have banned screening officers from wearing jackets and uniforms with pockets. Yet barely six months after its implementation, the “no pocket policy” came crash landing on someone else’s oral cavity.
While the culprit enjoys the presumption of innocence, a confluence of factors too evident to ignore ought to be enough to put shame and impose criminal liability upon her. First, amid the commotion that arose between the complaining passenger and the lady security, the latter was seen turning away, stuffing a paper bill inside her mouth and desperately swallowing it with the help of a finger and bottled water. Second, her supervisor was seen walking towards her as if wanting to ensure that “the bills are dispatched to preclude any evidence,” per the Office of Transport Security (OTS) report. Third, the spate of thefts in Naiacan serve as a pattern of conspiracy or modus operandi among security personnel given that being inside an airport, where security is strict both for the passengers and its workers, it is almost impossible to confine the loot to just one person. As such, the OTS report itself implicated the duty supervisor. Despite the CCTV footage, the lady security guard issued an outright denial saying that she was eating chocolate and not money. Many were quick to respond that “swallowing” chocolate is against the natural way of eating and enjoying a sweet treat. My daughter who loves chocolate can attest to that! Nobody stuffs chocolate into one’s mouth to the point of choking.
What remains appalling is how the act of thievery could be brazenly committed by a uniformed officer, notwithstanding the policies on honesty in government. Compounding the offense is the fact that swallowing dollar bills or any other thing not fit for human consumption is an outright health hazard. No wonder, Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista sought the maximum penalty against the erring screening officer under Section 81 of Republic Act 10951 (August 29, 2017), which amended Article 309 of our Revised Penal Code. The amount of $300 (approximately P16,500) involved in this case falls within the penalty of Arresto mayor in its medium period to Prision correccional in its minimum period. Thus, the maximum imposable penalty is computed as two years and four months for such reprehensible conduct—quite wanting under the circumstances, given that NAIA has been considered as one of the worst airports globally. The guard and her cohorts offended not only the passenger but, alas, the agency and the country as well.
However, in these trying times, I’d rather focus on the penalty itself instead of the offender, from a deterrent perspective. It is this particular aim of preclusion vis-à-vis the imposition of maximum penalties for crimes that is most critical in penal laws. The other two, punishment and retribution, appear to be dependent on the crime, following the logic that every act has its consequence. Deterrence, on the other hand, apparently rests largely on the individual—to commit or not commit any further wrong. Hopefully, the maximum penalties coupled with a swift justice system could help achieve this purpose. A few rotten eggs in every government agency have truly destroyed people’s faith in our public servants.
Using this maximum penalty on this money-swallowing guard as factual backdrop, believers of faith are invited to gaze anew at the Cross, where the maximum penalty of death was suffered by one man “who knew no sin to be sin for all of us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Blood had to be shed in order for us to be redeemed. And because of this maximum penalty of death, we who accept Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross are deemed “dead to sin” (Romans 6:11), and thus cannot live in it any longer (Romans 6:2).
The essence of deterrence against committing sin therefore rests in a believer’s heart because of God’s grace, as exemplified by the maximum penalty meted on His only Son! Because our Creator sees the completion of the penalty upon His Son, He sees us clean and righteous. It matters not whether we consequently gulped down $300, or lied so glibly, or maltreated another person. With the consciousness of being made blameless, ultimate shame falls upon those who continue to intentionally commit sin. The maximum penalty on the Cross was a “finished” work (John 19:30); more than sufficient to deter us against falling again to the ground of transgression.
Human beings we all are, similar to this lady guard, we tend to falter whenever temptations surround us. There’s no CCTV that can record our every move each day. But, since the Holy Spirit within us knows and sees what we do with our mouths, our hands, and even our hearts, we should consciously maximize the benefits of salvation brought about by the maximum penalty of death upon our Lord Jesus Christ.
A former infantry and intelligence officer in the Army, Siegfred Mison showcased his servant leadership philosophy in organizations such as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Malcolm Law Offices, Infogix Inc., University of the East, Bureau of Immigration, and Philippine Airlines. He is a graduate of West Point in New York, Ateneo Law School, and University of Southern California. A corporate lawyer by profession, he is an inspirational teacher and a Spirit-filled writer with a mission.
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