Abella-Aguillon, Milagros: Acceptability and Legality on the use Advance Imaging Technology in the Observance of Aviation Security at the Philippines

I. Introduction

Security at the airport is paramount for the developing countries like the Philippines. The national government is investing a huge outlay of resources for the improvement of the airport in accordance to international standards to promote the country as transient point for international carriers. Because of the strategic value of the Philippines in the international trade, the Philippines has been regarded as a vital point for the transhipment point for commercial trading. With these premises, the country is expecting large number of people passing through the airports, Such gathering, the Philippines may become a present target for terrorism and other forms of crime due to the number of people coming in and out from the country. The high concentration of people on large airlines, the potential high lethality rate of attacks on aircraft and the ability to use a hijacked airplane as a lethal weapon provide an alluring target for terrorism. Aggravated by the fact that the Philippines being internationally recognized ally of the United States made the country more susceptible as target for terrorist attacks.

The aftermath of the 9/11 attack is evidence on how international air travellers are witnessing the tightening of the security net at the airport. However, the techniques and methods used in protecting airports and aircrafts from crime have also changed the tactics of the terrorist to get around the security.
Hence, this paper is prepared to review the security measures being implemented in the airports of the Philippines. It will assess how the Philippines is prepared on the recent development of bomb threats and other crimes committed at the airport.

In the process of assessment, this paper will introduce the use of Advance Imaging Technology as an enhancement to the aviation security of the Philippines. In the introduction of this measure, the mechanism how it works and the effects to the public particularly on privacy and violation of human rights will be discussed. There will also be review on the current operations of the aviation security of the other countries particularly those which are already using the Advance Imaging Technology . Discussion on the protocol, if there, will be explored.

Considering the data to be collated, the paper must be able to conclude the acceptability and legality of the Advance Imaging Technology in the observance of aviation security at the Philippines to include the necessary actions to be taken for its adoption in the aviation industry/airport.

II. Discussion

A. Philippine Setting: Present Airport Security

At present the Philippines is using the old style X-ray scanners, the level of sophistication has been introduced nowadays to give much greater capability to detect weapons to protect the commission of crime at the airport and at the airplane.

These present airport security measures are augmented by the deployment of police and military forces which use sniffing dogs and other techniques and methods to ensure for the safe travel of the passengers, locally and internationally.

Since the 9/11 attack, the Philippines did not register any terrorist attack. Unlike other countries especially at the Europe, there were registered threats and panicking scenario that lead for a stricter airport security measures. The tougher checks for air passengers by the United States for air passengers from nations deemed to have links with terrorism also influenced the Philippine Airport Security. The latter instituted an earlier registration and or confirmation of flights. Passengers need to be checked in at least one hour before the scheduled flight to give the airport authority longer time checking the baggage and body check of passengers. Under these traditional processes, it gave too much hassle not only on the part of the passengers but as well as the staffs of airport security. Aggravated by some isolated cases of uncooperative passengers, the processes were proven to be below par than the internationally accepted techniques, methods and procedures in the enforcement of security.

B. Current Trend of Airport Security Outside the Country

Other countries are already adopting advance techniques to ensure security and safety in the airport.. Example of which is the United Kingdom. Early month of this year, the country adopted airport body scanning because of the alleged attempt to blow up an American flight on 25 December 2009 . This technique is in lieu of the “pat down” searches. `However, the plan of the United Kingdom to roll them out in the United Kingdom airports was withhold because of contentious issue that it the use of airport body scanners is unlawful because it affects the privacy of the passenger.

Furthermore, opponents for the use of airport body scanner argued that the use of body scanners are an invasion of privacy because, in addition to the concealed packages, the scanning also reveal the curves of a person’s body on screen viewed by the security officers. Scanning is likened to a virtual strip search. The technology has the potential to turn a legitimate security concern into unacceptable peepshow for security industries. [1] In addition privacy may be at stake because of the production of “naked” images of passengers, these images might be leaked online. Opponents for the use of airport body scanner feared that the scans of celebrities or of people with unusual body profiles could prove an “irresistible pull” for some employees, leading to their potential publication on the internet. Most especially the images of celebrities and child which might be susceptible for abuse.

Hence, the civil rights groups of the United Kingdom commented that the airport body scanning may be unlawful. This position of the group is also supported by the Equality and Human Rights of the United Kingdom which commented that the use of airport body scanners may be unlawful. It also stated that airport body scanner may be breaking discrimination law as well as breaching passengers’ rights to privacy.

C. What is Concept of Security Advance Image Technology

The Security Advance Image technology work by beaming electromagnetic waves on to passengers while they stand in a booth. A virtual three-dimensional image is then created from the reflected The “passive millimetre wave scanners” remove the need for pat-down searches of travellers. The scanning will allow airport security staff to see beneath passenger clothing, it could spot hidden items like explosives or drugs. The scanners effectively render a naked image of each passenger – highlighting any objects stored close to the body as well as more intimate details.

This type of technology in the airport environment is a potential game changer for the safety of air passengers. It also gives security personnel much needed additional capability.

D. International Acceptability of the Airport Body Scanning

In the late 2008, the European Parliament members voted overwhelming calling that the machine is an affront to passenger’s right. However, the inevitable outcome of the failed attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009, it sparked the new calls in the US and Europe to dramatically step up security at airports. [2]

Users of the Airport Security Scanner out weight the criticism about its unacceptability because of the concern of privacy because the officials handling the security policies of the country presently using them recognizes that , “The right to life is the ultimate human right.” There is also recognition that the current security threat level is paramount to be considered. Hence, state action like border checks, stop-and-search and full body scanning are undertaken for good reasons but must be done with proper care and in accordance to such policies in order to end up applying in ways which will not discriminate against vulnerable groups or harm good community relations.”

The world’s largest makers of full-body scanners, accepted that concerns on privacy of the opponents on the use of technology are valid. But they say that the software of the technology can be adjusted to blur the parts of the body. And opined that full body scanning is far less intrusive than the traditional pat down of the body. [3]

At present, forty(40) full body scanners are already in use at nineteen (19) US airports and nearly one thousand more are proposed to be installed by late 2011 to cover half of the nation’s airport checkpoints. [4] With the massive roll plan for the implementation of the airport body scanning, stricter privacy measures were implemented by the US Transportation Security Administration. Among them are: (1) Screeners view the images on a monitor in a separate room from the passenger, whom they never see in person, (2) Cameras, cell phones and other picture taking devices are banned in the monitor room, (3) The images, in which facial features are blurred are deleted immediately after the scan is reviewed, and (4) Functions that allow storage or transmission of images are disabled before installation of the scanners at the airports. [5]

E. Acceptability and Legality of the Airport Body Scanning in the Philippines

Introduction of the new technology at the Philippine Airport may also call the same criticism it experienced in the international arena. The concerns of privacy may also be raised. However, it is settled rule in the Philippine jurisprudence that protection against unreasonable searches and seizures only applies if a person is in a situation where he or she has a legitimate expectation of privacy. Meaning the person is expected to have some degree of privacy in what he or she was doing and society would accept that expectation of privacy as reasonable. For instance, a person using a public restroom would expect to have privacy and most people would agree that was reasonable.

In addition, in the case of People VS Jonhson under G.R. Number 138881 dated 18 December 2000, the court ruled that protection against warrantless searches and seizures do not apply to routine airport procedures. On the said case, the court emphasized that a person may lose the protection of the search and seizure clause by exposure of their persons or property to the public in a manner reflecting a lack of subjective expectation of privacy, which expectation society is prepared to recognize as reasonable. Such recognition is implicit in airport security procedures. With increased concern over airplane hijacking and terrorism has come to increase security at the nation’s airport. Passengers attempting to board an aircraft routinely pass through metal detectors; their carry-on baggage as well as checked luggage are routinely subjected to x-ray scans. Should these procedures suggest the presence of suspicious objects, physical searches are conducted to determine what the objects are. There is a little question that such searches are reasonable, given their minimal intrusiveness, the gravity of the safety interests involved, and the reduced privacy expectations associated with airline travel. Indeed, travelers are often notified through public address systems, signs and notices in their airline tickets that they are subject to search and, if any prohibited materials or substances are found, such would be subject to seizure.

Hence, the question of acceptability and legality of the airport body scanning is dependent on the legitimate expectation of the passenger at an airport of privacy.

Considering the international trend of airport security, soon the airport body scanning will form part of the airport security program in lieu of the traditional and manual way of doing things.

Getting from the lessons learned of other countries in its implementation, there is no need to have a legislative act for its use in the Philippine settings. Based on the corrective privacy measures in the use of the airport body scanning, the concerns of privacy are no longer issues for its use in the Philippines.

III. Conclusion

Nowadays, the acceptability and legality on the use Advance Imaging Technology in the Observance of Aviation Security at the Philippines is legal and acceptable. The criticism it attained when the Advance Imaging Technology was first introduced are no longer valid because of the existing code or standards for its operations.

The minor defects that may attribute for the vulnerability to encroach individual’s privacy is out weight by the benefits of safety and peace of mind of the passengers while in travel.

The concerns of privacy is not an issue if the vital staffs are properly trained and there is a developed code of practice to be observed to ensure that the concerns of infringement of privacy are properly taken into account. There must be safeguards to be developed other than the operating standards of the use of the scanners such as the images must be treated anonymous and they must be deleted immediately.

There must be proportionate measures to be adopted. Clarify the safeguards that must be put in place.

Full body scanning is no more an invasion of privacy than manual “pat-downs” or searches of bags.

Hence, the introduction of Advance Imaging Technology can be adopted by the Aviation Security to ensure the safety of the flying public.


[1] http://www.time.com/time/world/article,0,8599,19511529

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] http://www.student-voices.org

[5] Notes on Constitutional Law II of Atty Michael Vernon Guerrrero


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