Wake Up, Philippines!

Keeping out tourist predators

Posted in Crime, Sexual Abuse, Tourism by Erineus on May 20, 2009

Cebu Daily News
First Posted 10:05:00 05/19/2009

Out-of-bounds tourism” would be an apt term for the incident involving an American tourist who was arrested by police last week for staying with a minor in a beach resort in Sta. Fe town, Bantayan island.

Vigilant beach resort staff reported his presence to social workers. Not surprisingly, the parents of the 12-year-old girl, a sampaguita vendor, said they consented to letting her stay with the American “friend”. He had helped send the children to school. Was there more he did?

In last Monday’s story the tourist denied abusing the girl and said he planned to take a vacation with her and her family. He expressed admiration for Filipinos and said he even planned to stay in Cebu for good were it not for his predicament.

There’s much for him to explain, aside from his relationship with a family whose young daughters met him while sending sampaguita flowers on the street in Cebu City.

A medical examination by the Sta. Fe health worker found a laceration in the little girl’s private parts.

That alone is basis to act with real skepticism toward the conduct of an adult Caucasian male, who checks in a resort with a school-age girl who is not his daughter, sister, niece or anyone related by blood or morally proper ties.

While some could sense the desperation of the girl’s family in defending the “friend” who has helped their daughter and siblings go to school, there are many also shocked by the decision to offer their daughter’s company to a virtual stranger.

During the Easter break, Sta. Fe town figured in a controversial bikini show staged during the Holy Week that resulted in charges filed by the Capitol against the promoter and several starlets.

These two incidents are significant in light of the Department of Tourism’s promotion of Cebu as the prime tourism destination in the country.

The business community and the public at large are certainly not crowing about stories of foreign or domestic pedophiles enjoying the benefits of arms-open-wide tourism.

Remember Pagsanjan town in Laguna? That place knows a thing or two about sexual predators masquerading as tourists .

If Cebu is being overprotective today about the dignity of its women and young girls, congratulations. We’re much smarter now after going through the rough learning curve of sex tours during the unmonitored Japanese invasion of the 1970s.

It is noteworthy that the Sta. Fe beach resort where the American stayed was the one who reported the unusual guests to the authorities.

It shows the resort management had a conscience to go with its entrepreneurial spirit. Police were able to “rescue” the child the day after the report.

We have to know clearly what kind of tourism Cebu wants. Hospitality has its limits and it’s not to be given at the cost of innocent children.


After the release

Posted in Crime, Editorial, Kidnapping, Mindanao by Erineus on April 20, 2009
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In the jungles of Sulu, hostages who are mysteriously found abandoned by their captors are widely suspected to have regained their freedom through the payment of ransom. In the case of the mostly European hostages taken from the Malaysian island resort of Sipadan, the Abu Sayyaf band led by Ghalib “Robot” Andang reportedly earned a whopping $30 million, with the bulk of the amount contributed by the Libyan government. That lucrative caper, suspected to have been brokered by certain government officials who were in cahoots with the bandits, led to more kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf.

The bandits’ main group later ventured all the way to Palawan to seize hostages from a resort. In that incident, several Filipinos also mysteriously walked free as the Abu Sayyaf dragged the remaining captives deeper into Basilan. Those who regained their freedom denied paying ransom. Left behind were several Filipinos and three Americans, one of whom was decapitated.

Today, the Abu Sayyaf leadership has been decimated, but what’s left of the group is still engaged in kidnapping. Earlier this year the band operating in Sulu seized three volunteers of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Filipina hostage was the first to be freed. The other day it was the turn of the Swiss hostage to walk free. The official version is that he managed to slip away from his captors as government forces were pursuing the bandits. The talk circulating in Mindanao is that the Abu Sayyaf had abandoned Andreas Notter after ransom was paid. Denials were issued yesterday by different offices starting with Malacañang. The fate of Italian hostage Eugenio Vagni is unknown, despite government forces supposedly coming within just 500 meters of the bandits before Notter walked free.

Paying ransom to secure the safe release of a hostage is fine if the payment also leads to the capture of the kidnappers and recovery of the ransom. Allowing bandits to enjoy the proceeds of their caper guarantees more kidnappings. In the Zamboanga peninsula and Basilan, groups apart from the Abu Sayyaf have entered the game, snatching teachers and other civilians and demanding ransom. It’s not enough to secure the release of hostages. Their captors must be found and neutralized, and any ransom paid must be recovered. Anyone who benefits from a ransom payment must be punished.


Cops acted like ‘hooligans’–opposition

Posted in Crime, Criminal System, PNP by Erineus on April 18, 2009

MANILA, Philippines — The United Opposition (UNO) slammed the police’s handling of the case involving broadcaster Ted Failon, saying they acted like “hooligans” in effecting their arrests.

“The professional conduct of the police is deplorable. Even the presence of media did not deter them from acting like hooligans instead of law enforcers,” said UNO president Jejomar Binay in a statement.

Binay said the PNP disregarded its own rule of not presenting suspects to the media when it “publicly humiliated and paraded” the helpers and relatives of Failon like they were convicted criminals.

He said that under the law, a person was always presumed innocent until proven otherwise but the law enforcers reportedly failed to observe this — thus violating the rights of those arrested.

“During martial law, the police would use obstruction of justice to justify the arrest of oppositionists and activists. It seems that the practice continues and is being invoked against ordinary citizens,” said Binay.

Manhandling people, as what the officers did when they forced Failon’s kin and staff into the patrol cars, seemed to have become “standard operating procedure,” he added.


Posted in Crime, Criminal System, Editorial, PNP by Erineus on April 18, 2009

AFTER watching the way the police have been handling the investigation of the death of Trinidad Arteche Etong, ABS-CBN news anchor Ted Failon’s wife, Filipinos have reason to be afraid — very afraid — of their so-called protectors.

From the time the Quezon City police began working on the case, it was clear they wanted to pin down Failon in a murder charge.

With little to go on but a fertile imagination, Superintendent Frank Mabanag, chief of the Quezon City Police District’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit, theorized that Etong could have been killed in their Pajero and brought up to the bathroom where Failon claimed to have found her lying in a pool of blood.

Right in his own house, Failon was made to undergo a paraffin test as police investigators gleefully posed behind him for souvenir photos.

Even as Etong was undergoing emergency treatment for a bullet wound to her head, the police “invited” Failon to submit to an investigation that would drag through the night up to the early hours of morning.

Eight hours later, the investigators finally let him go.

But soon after that, Mabanag announced that a “manhunt” had been launched for the broadcaster who, it turned out, had just gone back to the hospital to be with his wife.

When the paraffin test yielded a negative result, a gentler and more humane police force would have taken it as a cue to ease up a bit and give Failon, his kin and his household some space to rest and maybe try to come to terms with the tragedy.

But no, the frustrating outcome seemed only to have roused the Quezon City police to intensify their persecution of everyone closely or remotely involved in the case.

In a series of operations, policemen arrested first, Failon’s two maids, his driver and a utility man, and later, two of his in-laws.

Especially brutal was the arrest of Failon’s sister-in-law, Pamela Trinchera, who was dragged protesting and screaming out of the hospital where her sister was being treated.

The police recommended that all, except Failon’s brother-in-law, be charged with obstruction of justice, an offense the police were hard put to define.

The four house help stand accused of tampering with evidence because they cleaned up the bathroom where Etong was reportedly found and the car in which Etong was brought to the hospital.
All claimed they did it on their own (to spare Failon’s younger daughter the trauma of seeing her mother’s blood, according to the maids) and without any intention of hiding a crime.

It seems not to have occurred to the investigators that if indeed Etong died by her own hand — a possibility they say they have not ruled out — then no crime was committed, in which case they will have to explain what kind of evidence was tampered with — evidence of a non-crime, perhaps?

The case against Trinchera (which the prosecutor mercifully dismissed) was even curiouser.

The police wanted her charged for blocking a procedure that the policemen themselves described as inconclusive.

That was what they said when the paraffin test on Failon yielded a negative result.

Why did they insist on doing a test that has been discredited (according to one forensic expert) on a woman who was fighting for her life?

It is not for us to say whether Etong’s death was suicide or murder.

What we can say is that what the Quezon City police have done is an overkill.

Chief Superintendent Roberto Rosales, the National Capital Region police chief, says the investigation is being conducted carefully and by the book.

But as crime investigations go, this one has been going at lightning speed for a police force that remains clueless about assassinations of two Cabinet undersecretaries, not to mention the murders of scores of journalists and activists.

It is clear that the investigators are rushing to implicate anyone and everyone on anything, and especially Failon if they can.

And the reason is obvious: Failon has been a thorn in the side of the Quezon City police, with his biting radio commentaries on the rubout of suspected car thieves on EDSA a couple of months ago and the recent upsurge of carjacking cases in the city.

This is sweet revenge for some city police officers, and they don’t care who gets hurt.

Neither do they care if the whole nation watches as they wage their vendetta in the glare of television cameras.

Their message to the media and the public is unmistakable: Don’t mess with us or else…

Perhaps it is time Filipinos began to ask whether they should continue to support with their taxes an organization that is going berserk.

Continuing to do so is beginning to look like suicide.


Palace: Not true we ignore media killings

Posted in Crime, Human Rights, Media by Erineus on March 27, 2009

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:29:00 03/25/2009

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang on Tuesday criticized as “unfair” a report from a New York-based media watchdog listing the Philippines as among the world’s most dangerous places for journalists due to many unresolved murders since 1998.

At least 24 killings of Filipino journalists have remained unresolved since 1998, said the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The CPJ called on the government to prosecute and punish those behind the murders.

In its latest “Impunity Index” report, the CPJ ranked the Philippines No. 6 in a list of 14 countries with high numbers of unresolved killings of journalists against the size of the population.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said it was not true the government had ignored these killings in the country, saying 26 of 31 cases were now either being tried in lower courts or under prosecutors’ review.

“We view with discomfort the manner the Philippines is once again put in a bad light on its commitment on the promotion and protection of human rights,” Ermita told reporters.

“The allegation by the CPJ is an unfair depiction of what is happening based on measures that are inadequate. These incidents have all been properly attended to.”

No quick convictions

The retired military general said at least four people had been convicted and 26 others were facing charges for the murder of at least 31 Filipino journalists since 2001.

“The low conviction rate has been misconstrued as a slack in the country’s justice system. This is a misconception because we always conform to the rule of law. The government will not force quick convictions simply for the sake of announcing achievements,” Ermita said.

The CPJ said it was standing firm on its “impunity index” because the data-based report “belies the claim of an exaggeration.”

RP peacetime democracy

“What is striking is that the Philippines is one of the only countries in the top half of this list that is a stable and a peacetime democracy,” the CPJ said.

Iraq, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sri Lanka remained at the top of the list, but these states are virtually in a state of war, the CPJ added.

Local media groups said about 78 to 100 of more than 130 journalists killed since 1986 died while doing their job. Only five of those cases led to the conviction of gunmen—but not to any alleged mastermind.

In a statement Tuesday, a mission from the Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) that visited the country on March 21-24 expressed fears that the killings of media people in the Philippines could spread to other countries in the region.

Deeply rooted

“We believe that the culture of impunity that is deeply rooted in the Philippines could be replicated in other countries in the region unless there is a common effort to dismantle it in the Philippines,” the group said.

SEAPA noted an increase in violence against journalists and media workers in Malaysia and Thailand last year. This includes harassment, mob attacks on journalists and media premises, killings and legal sanctions to suppress free expression.

The alliance also feared an escalation of the killings of media people in the Philippines as the 2010 election nears.

SEAPA called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo “to take the steps necessary to prevent that unfortunate development.” With reports from Alcuin Papa and Reuters


No man’s land and no one in charge

Posted in Crime, Criminal System, Law and order by Erineus on March 24, 2009

CTALK By Cito Beltran Updated March 20, 2009 12:00 AM

We have finally become what New York City was once popular for in the US: “the most crime ridden city” in the country. Government officials are shot in broad daylight, car windows being smashed for their contents inside church parking lots, motorists being attacked on an urban highway, etc. In fact, we should start printing brochures about how to safely navigate your way around Metro Manila after dark in order to avoid becoming a victim.

In the last two months, we have witnessed increasing reports of shootings, vehicular homicide, robberies, and burglaries. Now there is the growing thread of internet stories about physical assaults at “open parties” and the tales of terror along the South Super highway just off Buendia Avenue.

Many people don’t know what to make of it but it seems that more and more people are coming on the net and telling others about what they personally experienced or witnessed on a stretch of road that has long been considered “no man’s land”.

The danger zone lies between Buendia Avenue and Quirino Avenue, which historically was the home court of snatchers, nothing more. But in a bold and daring display of criminality, the local thugs are reportedly more blatant in their crimes. They try to enter unlocked vehicles or get you to come out by kicking your door or breaking some part of the car like an antenna. Go down and you get mugged!

To be quite honest, none of this is new.

Such “In your face” crimes have long been going on in places like Araneta avenue especially near E. Rodriguez Ave. in Quezon City or the old “clover leaf area” of Caloocan City or near the Smokey mountain area. I’m certain that once we ask where these crimes happen in the “In-Box” section, we will all discover how commonplace these attacks and crimes are. What really worries me is that the rise in incidents is directly proportional to the growing poverty, desperation and flat-footed behavior of local government officials and the barangays.

For over six months now, I have regularly warned friends and neighbors alike to pay more attention to security and safety because I know that the financial crisis we have all been talking about has long been the reality among those who can’t read or write or afford to buy the newspaper.

While many of us live in real homes and often with some form of security or deterrent against criminals, most of the poor people in Metro Manila are poorer and more desperate. Anyone who lives outside walled and guarded villages are familiar with the increasing number of men who go around on foot looking for fruits to pick from someone else’s garden or anything of value that can be pulled, ripped or carted away. Your dogs are not safe, your cars are not safe, heck even your maids are not safe!

Where are the DILG and the PNP in all these? Is anybody still in-charge or are they all busy being tourists or re-electionists?

Every barangay official generally knows what goes on in their territory and who is behind it. Why has the criminality in the mentioned areas gotten out of hand? Is it merely poverty and desperation, omission, or collusion? Perhaps Secretary Puno should also remember that poverty and crime equals illegal drugs, which equals more violent crimes! In at least one known case with the PDEA, the barangay captain was both the drug lord and the crime boss!

Will Secretary Puno wait for someone to be stabbed dead or shot in self-defense? What if someone decides to use a half-ton truck or a car as their weapon of choice to bring down such criminals on the South Super Highway?

Where are the Police? Where are the barangay Tanods who get paid as force-multipliers?

The most common complaint on the danger zones is the common observation that in spite of the repeated attacks, no regular patrols are seen or posted. The cops are so busy checking motorcycle riders and manning their fixed checkpoints while all the criminals on foot are attacking civilians like a walk in the park.

So far only Gen. Magtanggol Gatdula has responded to the problem of criminality in the Cloverleaf area. We still have to know what the cities of Makati and Manila will do with the barangay officials and the police who left the “no man’s land” unchecked in their shared space.

Exaggerated or real, the observable fact is that the areas mentioned seriously need police presence and monitoring. Snatching and muggings may be petty crimes for the cops, but when people start flooding the internet about what goes on in Metro Manila, it does not take long for the rest of the country to know!

General Rosales of the Western Police District still gets flak from an email that was circulated about how three WPD cops extorted from a student over a year ago. Rosales took action, suspended the cops and had them investigated and charged last year. But up to this day, the negative email about the incident still makes the rounds.

As for the rest of us ordinary people, the shared information tells us to have heavily tinted vehicles, make sure your doors and door locks work well, make sure you have a very loud horn, and if you can make sure you carry a tear gas gun, a pepper spray, or a zapper. Always have the police emergency number with you (117). It would also help more people if we text blast everyone the minute we witness such crimes.

Like the shift supervisor on Hill Street Blues always says: Be careful out there!

View previous articles of this column.


Group to solons: Amend anti-trafficking law

Posted in Crime, Laws, Legislation, Trafficking by Erineus on March 16, 2009

By Marjorie Gorospe
First Posted 20:58:00 03/16/2009

Filed Under: Crime, Laws

MANILA, Philippines — A nongovernmental organization (NGO) urged lawmakers to amend the Anti-Trafficking Act of 2003, in particular the confidentiality clause it deemed partial to offenders.

Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, said the law currently protects the right to privacy of both the victim and the accused, allowing traffickers to continue their illegal activities.

“We believe in the need to protect the identities of the victims but not the accused especially if they have outstanding warrants of arrest,” Ople said.

Section 6 of Republic Act 9208 states that “at any stage of the investigation, prosecution and trial of an offense under this act, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, court personnel and medical practitioners, as well as parties to the case, shall recognize the right to privacy of the trafficked person and the accused.”

“The only thing we [NGOs] can hold on to is our advocacy, so how can we prevent trafficking if none of us can tell anyone who preys on the victims,” said Ople, pointing out that trafficking is a transnational crime that involves syndicates with power and resources.

She said her organization has asked the Senate labor committee, headed by Senator Jose Estrada, to amend the law.

Ople said Estrada has asked her group to draft the appropriate amendments.

“We see that there is a loophole in this law, and that’s what we’re trying to work out,” said Ople, daughter of the late Senator Blas Ople.