THIS one is for the books. A 12-year-old boy slipped into the predeparture area of the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA), then boarded a Manila-bound plane without a boarding pass and a plane ticket.

Why did it happen? Well, nobody has an explanation, making the incident a puzzle for airport authorities, including personnel of the concerned airline.

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But we can say that security at the airport was lax. Elements of the Philippine Center for Aviation and Security (PCAS), a Philippine National Police unit in charge of airport security, must have slept on their job. Had the kid carried a bomb, the airport could have been blown up.

Jeffrey Rivera, a native of Samar and believed to be a runaway from the Parian Drop-in Center, posed as passenger last Feb. 2 and entered the departure area undetected. He followed the other passengers until he was able to board a Philippine Airlines plane (flight PR 848) bound for Manila. The plane was scheduled to depart at 9:30 a.m.

A stewardess found out that Rivera was not a legitimate passenger after somebody complained that the kid had occupied his assigned seat. Rivera failed to produce his plane ticket and boarding pass, prompting plane personnel to tell him to disembark. PCAS personnel escorted him out of the plane and turned him over to the social welfare department.

The incident is another slap at the competence of airport authorities. Procedures are in place before one can enter the airport departure area, much more board a passenger’s pass several layers of inspections and security checks.

A PCAS team guards the entrance and checks if a person has a plane ticket. Sometimes team members ask for a passenger’s identification card to find out if the name on the ticket matches that of the person possessing it.

After a body search at the x-ray area, the passenger then proceeds to the airlines counter for cargo check-in and to get the boarding pass and seat assignment. The passenger proceeds to the toll booth for terminal fee.

Another x-ray check and body search is conducted before a passenger is allowed into the pre-departure area. There, authorities require passengers to take off their shoes. During boarding, airline personnel claim the passenger's boarding pass.

With the tight security and inspection system, how did the boy get inside the plane undetected? Was he invisible? PCAS people and airline personnel have a lot of explaining to do on this incident. Airport officials are seeking a detailed police report on the matter but unfortunately PCAS officers have yet to submit a report.

Sources said that Supt. Joselito Salido, the PCAS chief, tried to hide the incident from airport officials and the media by not submitting an official report. In an interview with dySS reporter Guam Logronio, Salido denied they committed lapses and instead blamed airline personnel for the mess.

Earlier, PCAS got entangled in another controversy when its people released a Norwegian national who was arrested for attempting to smuggle a handgun into the airport last December.

Bulilyaso na naman si Supt. Salido. Dapat alisin na yan dyan.

(bgnalzaro@gmanetwork.com)