A US-bound airline passenger found with a grenade and a big knife in his hand-carry bag almost succeeded in boarding his flight at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) on Thursday.
Authorities said Cipriano de Guzman, a 58-year-old Filipino-American, was already at the Naia Terminal 1 around 6:30 a.m. for an 11 a.m. flight to Taipei and a connecting flight to the US.
After handing over two pieces of checked-in luggage at the China Airlines counter, he went to the toilet carrying his hand-carry bag, a backpack.
Security camera footage showed that De Guzman spent about two minutes inside the toilet, which is located outside Naia’s controlled passenger area and is accessible to the public.
When he tried to re-enter the departure area through the same “exit” point he used to get to the toilet, he was stopped by security personnel and was directed to pass through the main passenger entrance and undergo security checks all over again, which requires an X-ray examination of his bag.
As De Guzman complied, screening officers Nolasco Abangco and Enrique Cruz called his attention when they spotted a knife-shaped item and something resembling a grenade inside his bag.
Their suspicions were confirmed after De Guzman, following their orders, opened the bag and showed its contents. Stuffed among his personal items were an MK2 fragmentation grenade and a kitchen knife.
According to Aviation Security Group-National Capital Region (Avsegroup-NCR) head Supt. Ricardo Layug Jr., De Guzman maintained his innocence when questioned.
“He insisted that somebody must have put the items inside his backpack while he was in the toilet,” Layug said. “But that is hard to believe. He did not have to go out to use the public restroom because there is a toilet available for passengers who have already checked into their flights.”
De Guzman, an American passport holder, introduced himself as a businessman based in Orlando, Florida, and who arrived in the country in April for a vacation. He said he stayed with a friend in Taguig City.
“The suspect comes here every year for a vacation after he migrated to the US in 1974. He got his green card in 2006,” Layug added in an interview.
The man also claimed that he was traveling alone, but Layug said the Avsegroup was looking into the possibility that he had accomplices that enabled him to have the grenade and the knife in his bag.
The detained De Guzman faces charges in the Pasay City prosecutor’s office for illegal possession of an explosive and a bladed weapon, Layug said.
The Inquirer also learned from Naia sources on Thursday that De Guzman was arrested in Orange County, Florida, for drunk driving in 2012 and again in February this year for his failure to appear in court proceedings related to that case.