Wake Up, Philippines!

Suicide

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.

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/editorial/view/20090417-199994/Suicide

Group to solons: Amend anti-trafficking law

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

By Marjorie Gorospe
INQUIRER.net
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.

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view/20090316-194502/Group-to-solons-Amend-anti-trafficking-law

Easy Money

Posted in Crime, Gambling, Graft and Corruption, Poverty by Erineus on February 3, 2009

By Michael Tan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 11:38:00 01/15/2009

Filed Under: Graft & Corruption, Crime, Poverty, Gaming & Lotteries, Investments

DRIVE around the streets of the Metro and once you see a line, you immediately know it’s people queuing for lotto tickets. And with some 2,000 said to have joined the Lotto Millionaires Club, with winnings ranging from P3 million to P249 million, the number of hopeful lotto buyers will continue to grow.

Do the thriving lotto sales reflect a Filipino tendency to look for an easy way to wealth? Only partially, and I’d say this happens all over the world. People do have a weakness for lotteries, and governments have cashed in, setting up sweepstakes and lottos, with the proceeds purportedly going to charity to calm down people who see this as a form of gambling.

Dreams of instant wealth are shared across cultures, hich is why, besides the lotteries, we have all kinds of swindlers and scam artists offering untold riches from magic boxes (“Put money in this box and I will multiply it for you.”) to pyramid schemes. What does vary is the intensity of these aspirations, and the kind of scams peddled.

In the Philippines, we have a tendency to think of the poor as the most gullible, and attribute this to indolence. But look hard enough and you’ll realize that there really isn’t that much for con artists to take from the poor in the first place. Smart swindlers target the gullible among the middle and upper classes.

If Filipinos often talk about hopes for easy money and instant wealth, it’s because people do have to work so hard in the Philippines, and get so very little. Yet Filipinos also see others who get rich quickly with relatively little effort, so they begin to ask, “Why can’t I do that too?”

Foremost reason for the instant wealth, of course, is corruption. Ask young men from lower or even middle-class families what their dream job is, and they’d most likely answer, “police” or “customs inspector.” Probe a bit more and they will be quite candid in saying “that’s where the easy money is.”

Talk with business people handling government contracts and you’ll encounter two extremes. The honest ones will be talking about how exasperating it can be to chase after government payments, with very small profit margins. Talk with the “smart” ones and they’ll tell you all it takes is one major contract to make money enough to last you a lifetime, as long as you play the game right with commissions—your own as well as the host politicians. And these commissions—as we have been seeing in recent exposés in the Senate—make the lotto multi-million peso winnings look like loose change.

Easy money? Only for those on top of these syndicates. Profits trickle down. Just look at the well-documented jueteng (numbers game) industry showing how huge election spending can be funded by jueteng, while the kubrador or small collectors live in poverty.

Let’s move out of the area of graft and corruption and look at the private sector where get-rich activities thrive as well, often legally. The other day I was driving in one of the side streets of Quezon Boulevard and saw a large sign in front of one of the clubs, offering “up to P100,000 a month” to “attractive ladies.” Some overseas recruitment agencies also lure applicants with these amazing salary offers.

But most promises of instant money involve marketing. There are so many pyramid marketing schemes offering people a chance to earn lots of money selling everything from cosmetics to water purifiers. Initially, the schemes work because you’re able to sell to relatives, friends and neighbors, until you realize there’s a limit to the people in your network. The quick profits evaporate, eventually eating into the capital and people end up the poorer for it, sometimes with over-priced merchandise no one wants to buy.

The last five years or so have also featured another kind of easy money made available to the upper class: giant financial investment schemes in stocks and government bonds, brokered by banks. People were raking in up to 60 percent of their investment within a year, not doing anything except investing in the funds. Word spread and even little old grandmothers eventually began to play the game.

There were some warning signs about two or three years ago when investments began to falter, but the markets recovered… until this year. It turns out now that there was much speculation going on, foreign investors playing with our stock markets and our financial institutions, then withdrawing when the going got bad. The global financial crisis, we know now, came about in part because of all this speculation.

If anything good is going to come out of this global crisis, it might be a sobering of our aspirations, and a return to the old adage about easy money being suspicious money. Radical changes are going to come around the next year, as governments try to clean up capitalism. Meanwhile, lotto sales will remain brisk, maybe even picking up, with buyers taking things philosophically. Because in a way, they shrug, you always win. If you lose, well, the loss can still be seen as a donation to charity.