Kid broke airport security

Raises concern at Mactan
Cebu Daily

February 11, 2010

More than just a news item of curiosity, the fate of Richard (not his real name), the 12-year-old who escaped detection and managed to board a plane bound for Manila is a wakeup call for airport security at Mactan to shake themselves out of complacency.

The boy was neatly dressed and bypassed security checks without presenting a ticket or boarding pass.

It was only when he boarded the Philippine Airlines plane that his ruse was found out since he had no seat number and kept moving from one seat to another.

Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority General Manager Danilo Francia said the security breach wasn't that serious since the kid didn't carry weapons or pose harm to others.

Francia would think differently, however, if someone with insidious motives had placed an explosive or contraband in the boy’s bag – without the kid knowing.

Using minors to perpetrate criminal activities is a standard modus of drug runners and pickpockets.

Adult masterminds know that a child won’t get prosecuted to the full force of the law because of the Pangilinan law that removes criminal liability from minor offenders.

If it was that easy for a boy to slip through, in a post 9-1l era where shampoo bottles and nail clippers are considered suspected tools of terrorists, someone is taking youthful innocence for granted.

Richard is no terrorist but the ease with which he got all the way into a commercial flight undetected was a serious loophole. If the flight had been near empty, and the boy had taken a vacant seat, no one would have been the wiser.

Anyone, who watched the movie “Home Alone,” is familiar with the adventure of Kevin McAllister, the 10-year-old smart cookie who managed to check into a hotel using his father's credit cards minutes after landing at a New York airport.

However, the mischief in Mactan stems from a broken family.

Richard, the runaway, was trying to look for his mother, who had left their home in Eastern Samar province years back. Richard ended up in Cebu City, where his boat had docked in June last year, a miscalculation on his part.

For months, the runaway took shelter in the Parian Drop-In Center, a facility run by the Cebu city government for street children.

His father was due to arrive in the center on Feb. 1 to get him. That same night, boy disappeared with P1,000 taken from one of the staffers.

Forced off the plane and returned to the custody of social workers, Richard was heartbroken that his mission had been aborted again.

Social workers said he seemed remorseful or shamefaced about the misadventure. He will have to face the reality of going home to Samar. Meanwhile, airport officials have to deal with the reality of tightening security in Mactan.

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