The Philippines has a relatively high crime rate. Guns are widespread, violent crime is common and Manila was once voted the kidnapping capital of Asia. Pickpockets operate on crowded streets and buses and snatch-and-run thieves on motorscooters operate in Manila. Foreigners are sometimes the targets of scams involving prostitutes and gangsters, sleight-of-hand money changing tricks and credit card fraud. Outside the cities there is some banditry. Volunteer workers, missionaries and tourists have been kidnapped and in rare cases murdered. Kidnapping gangs have targeted foreigners. Be cautious of "express kidnaping" in which a tourist flags down a taxi driven by a criminal who works with an armed accomplice and forces the tourist to withdraw money from an ATM. Beware of taxis with people other than the driver.

Theft is the most common crime. Because the Philippines has a cash economy, thieves and pick-pockets can easily gain access to thousands of pesos. Petty thieves are unlikely to be apprehended unless a theft is discovered immediately. Ordinary break-ins are also a problem. Some foreigners have had their house broken into the very first night they stayed there. Another common crime is murder, which often is committed under the influence of alcohol. Guns are readily available. About 70 percent of the population on the main southern island of Mindanao own guns. “Police statistics indicate an average of 130 auto thefts in Metro Manila each month, often targeting sports utility and other luxury vehicles. Many crimes, including kidnapping-for-ransom, are not reported due to widespread distrust of authorities who are often behind the crimes and possible reprisals. [Source:, Joel D Adriano, Asia Times, August 17, 2010]

Shootings are routine events. Bank robberies and kidnappings are common way to make money in Manila. Five days before U.S. President Clinton and 17 other world leaders were scheduled to arrived in the Philippines for a major summit in the 1990s, a pipe bomb and hand grenades with a timing device were found at Manila airport and the meeting place for the summit. Some Filipinos claim that the high crime is the result of the colonial influence of the U.S.

Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times, “Street crime, violent bank robberies, carjackings and kidnappings have added an atmosphere of lawlessness. "There is a sense that anyone can get away with anything," a local journalist said. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines recently issued a pastoral letter criticizing widespread criminality, the involvement of the police in major crimes and "the apparent incapacity of Government authorities to prevent them or punish the perpetrators." [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, March 17, 1996]

In 2010, Joel D Adriano wrote in the Asia Times, “Many crimes in the Philippines are linked to the country's high poverty rate. As much as one-third of the population live in poverty, according to some estimates. Economic desperation has recently been aggravated by the global economic recession and the severe flooding in Manila and surrounding areas last year. That's compounded by a lack of effective law enforcement. Police are often suspected of being involved in many crimes in the Philippines, especially kidnappings for ransom. A number of suspects caught in past operations against kidnapping rings were either active or former policemen. [Source: Joel D Adriano, Asia Times, August 17, 2010]

In February 2011, Adriano wrote: “Organized crime rings have recently launched a series of car jackings and kidnappings for ransom that have specifically targeted foreigners or Filipino emigrants who are back in the country on holiday. The assaults have been commonly carried out by heavily armed assailants who instigate traffic accidents and either kill or apprehend their victims within a few kilometers of Manila's international airport.” Then there’s “last month's still unexplained bombing of a bus in the country's main financial district, Makati City. The blast killed four people and injured 14 others. Meanwhile, media attention has focused on the grisly murders of two car dealers, where assailants posed as drivers and killed the sellers after a test drive. Both bodies were found dumped north of Manila and burnt beyond recognition.[Source: Joel D Adriano, Asia Times, February 5, 2011]

Countries with biggest organized crime problem: 1) Columbia and Guatemala; 3) Russia; 4) South Africa; 5) Venezuela; and 6) the Philippines. [Source: Executive Survey of 60 countries]

Guns and Other Weapons in the Philippines

Official government estimates show there are over 1.1 million unlicensed firearms in the hands of Philippine civilians. There is a thriving black market for guns. Unlicensed pistols can be bought for as little as $100. [Source: AFP, ABC, December 31, 2013]

In 2013, Associated Press reported: “Police estimate there are about half a million firearms that are either unlicensed or have expired licenses around the country. Proliferation of firearms — some smuggled and some manufactured locally — has long fueled crime, political violence and Muslim and communist insurgencies that have raged for decades in parts of the country. Previous attempts by authorities to clamp down on unregistered weapons have yielded little result. [Source: Associated Press, January 4, 2013 =]

In 1996, more than 600,000 Filipinos were licensed to carry guns, of which 39,000 were allowed to carry them outside their home. Even though people who applied for the permit were supposed to pass a psychiatric-fitness test and meet other standards, the permits were reportedly easy to get. At that time an additional 200,000 people were believed to possess illegal guns, many of them homemade models known as “paltiks”.

Guns are sold at malls and models made in the United States, Europe, Israel and South Africa are all available. The neighborhood of Balisong is famous for its "butterfly” knives. Described as a poor man's switchblade, these knives have a double handle that closes around the blade and can be opened with a flick of the wrist. Bolos are large-machete-like knives. They are sometimes used in crimes. Bombs have planted and set off by extortionists and armed gangs as well as terrorists.

Homemade Guns in the Philippines

Filipino metalworkers are very skilled at making homemade weapons. Washington Post reporter William Branigin was shown a U.S. Army Colt .45 pistol and Smith and Wesson .357 magnum copies with barrels fashioned out of scrap metal scavenged from a bulldozer in a back yard workshop.

Homemade gunmakers in the Philippines produce everything from .22 derringer to Thompson submachine guns to exotic weapons such as pistols with 24-inch barrels and revolvers that can shoot M-16 bullets. The industry has existed for over 70 years and clients include criminals in the Philippines and gangsters from Hong Kong and Japan, who like the weapons because they are difficult to trace.

The center of the homemade gun industry in the city of Danao on the island of Cebu, where in the 1990s one government official was trying to organize the city's 5,000 gunsmiths into a cooperative to keep track on them and earn more money from legally exporting the guns. The gun industry employs about 10,000 people. Each small workshop produces about 15 to 20 guns a month. It is the leading source of income in the region.

Most of the weapons are .38 caliber revolvers that sell for as little as $35. A copy of Colt .45 sells for about $450. "In most cases, the high powered ones are quite dangerous," a police official told Branigin. “they can blow up in your hands...Our men would not want to touch one."

Gun Laws and the Anti-Gun Movement in the Philippines

A law as passed in the Marcos marital law period made possession of a gun without a permit an offense that could draw a prison sentence of 17 to 21 years. In 1994, a famous Filipino movie actor, Robin Padilla, was sentenced to 21 years in prison for possessing a high-power rifle. In 1997, government began to ease the gun laws, reducing the sentence to 4 to 6 years for low-powered guns and 8 to 10 years for high-powered guns because the old penalties were "harsh and abusive."

One human rights activist told Newsweek, "Allowing everyone to carry a gun like a cell phone would level the playing field. No more cowering in fear at the sight of a bully with a gun. We can “all” be bullies with guns.”

The Campaign for a Gunless Society in the Philippines collected over 1.2 million signatures on a petition in the 1990s to ban the carrying of guns in public places by anyone except policeman and military personnel. As is true in the U.S. the pro-gun lobby has friends in high places, such as Corazon Aquino's brother Jose Cojuangco, who killed a gun control bill in Congress. There are even bumper stickers that read "Gun's Don't kill people; people do." The gun-control people have responded with their own gun control slogan: "Gun's don't die; people do."

Aaron Favila of Associated Press wrote: “The proliferation of firearms has long fueled crime, political violence and Muslim and communist rebellions that have raged for decades in parts of the Philippines. Previous attempts by authorities to clamp down on unregistered weapons have yielded few results in a country where several politically powerful clans and families control private armed groups in provincial strongholds outside Manila. [Source: Aaron Favila, Associated Press, January 7, 2013 ^]

In 2010, Joel D Adriano wrote in the Asia Times, “ According to PNP director general Jesus Verzosa, the supposed drop in crime statistics in 2010 was due mainly to a five-month gun ban aimed at reducing political violence ahead of the May 10 general elections. Some 3,000 people were arrested, including 200 government employees, during the gun ban period, which ran from January to June. Because of the supposed dramatic decline in crime during the gun ban period, the PNP is now proposing a permanent gun ban. President Benigno Aquino, a gun enthusiast who target shoots as a hobby, has dismissed the idea out of hand, claiming that gun-related incidents represent a small percentage of the total crime statistics. [Source: Joel D Adriano, Asia Times, August 17, 2010 |::|]

Avoiding Crime in Your Philippine House

Bob wrote in his blog “Here, just about everyone goes into some level of lock-down at night. If you’re prosperous you’ll have a concrete wall and iron grates on your windows If you’re poor you’ll have a bamboo fence and gate, bamboo grates on your windows. All have a four-legged alarm system — if poor, a mutt, if richer a Doberman. If you leave something out at night, it might well be gone in the morning. Well-to-do Filipinos move to gated subdivisions. [Source:]

Some foreigners feel it’s distasteful and/or unnecessary to live in a walled compound. In our view that’s naïve. Every Filipino who can afford it lives behind walls and gates. Do they do this because they are paranoid about crime? We assume it’s because they are know what it takes to be safe in their own country. Walled cities, walled compounds, are everywhere in developing countries and historically a response to insecurity. Think of the lovely walled cities of Europe; Italy, Portugal, Spain and China. They were not built to make better scenery for tourists!

Don’t expect your neighbors, security guards or police to come to your aid if you get into problems at night. It’s dangerous for them to get involved, just as it may be dangerous for you to intervene to help someone in the middle of the night. A well-liked, long-time American resident of Iloilo City was recently stabbed to death in his apartment. Neighbors suspected something was wrong. After all, the American was a big guy, a martial arts enthusiast, being murdered by four young men. The neighbors were very close, in a close-packed neighborhood. It’s hard to imagine there was not a lot of noise. The neighbors peeked in the windows in the morning and the guy was dead. Any neighbor coming to his aid might well have been killed too. Some news accounts tried to portray this murder as the possible work of a New People’s Army “sparrow” assassination unit. This is far-fetched. The NPA does not generally stab and rob ordinary American retirees in their home at night in the city.

Famous Crimes in the Philippines

One of the most famous "cho chop" films— “The Vizconde Massacre: God Help Us”—starred Kris Aquino, the daughter of former president Cory Aquino and sister of present president Benigno Acquino III. It was based on the true story of 47-year-old woman and her two daughters, who were raped and stabbed to death by gang of drugged youths lead by Hubert Webb, the 29-year-old son of an influential senator.

Charges against Webb were dropped when the senator produced documents that stated his son was abroad at the time of the murder, but later a young businesswoman confessed that she was with the men on the night of the murders. A servant for the Senator later said she washed the son's clothing. The son and seven friends were charged with multiple murders but the senator was not charged.

In another sensational case six thugs working from Antonio Sanchez, a draconian mayor in the town of Calauan, kidnapped a women as a "gift" for Sanchez. Sanchez raped her. The six thugs took their turns and then murdered her and her boyfriend. Sanchez was later found guilty of the crime and given life in prison.

Filipino Chop Chop Films and Real Crimes

Many popular films in the 1990s were grisly dramas, based on real crimes, called "chop chop" films. One of the most famous "cho chop" films— “The Vizconde Massacre: God Help Us”—starred Aquino, the daughter of former president Cory Aquino and sister of present president Benigno Acquino III. It was based on the true story of 47-year-old woman and her two daughters, who were raped and stabbed to death by gang of drugged youths lead by Hubert Webb, the 29-year-old son of an influential senator. Charges against Webb were dropped when the senator produced documents that stated his son was abroad at the time of the murder, but later a young businesswoman confessed that she was with the men on the night of the murders. A servant for the Senator later said she washed the son's clothing. The son and seven friends were charged with multiple murders but the senator was not charged. Another popular movie was a thinly-veiled rip-off of the Lorena Bobbit story called "Loretta: The Woman Who Cut Off Happiness.” Kris Aquino reportedly turned down the roll after told her mother in no uncertain terms to do so.

Elyas Isabelo Salanga wrote in the Philippines Entertainment Portal: “The Vizconde massacre made headlines in the Philippines in the '90s and started a trend in filmmaking. Besides the horror itself, the suspected perpetrators included high-society figures. Movie producers and directors rode the wave of public outcry by creating true-to-life films based on such heinous crimes. “The Vizconde Massacre: God Help Us” is 1993 movie based on the brutal murder of the Vizconde family members—Estrellita, Carmela, and Anna Marie Jennifer—on June 30, 1991, in their home at BF Homes Parañaque. The case became controversial due to the alleged involvement of Hubert Webb, son of former senator Freddie Webb; and Antonio Lejano, son of actress Pinky de Leon and nephew of actor Christopher de Leon. [Source: Elyas Isabelo Salanga, Philippines Entertainment Portal, August 5, 2008]

“The controversy caught the attention of director Carlo Caparas, who made his movie apparently in support for the aggrieved, as the title suggests. Shot entirely where the heinous crime took place, the movie strongly projected reality. For example, Kris Aquino as Carmela Vizconde acted out the victim's final moments while being stabbed to death. Kris subsequently starred in other massacre films, making her the "Massacre Queen" in showbiz. A year after the box-office success of The Vizconde Massacre, Carlo Caparas gave moviegoers a fresh sequel, “The Vizconde Masacre 2: God Have Mercy On Us” (1994). The sequel tells the untold chapter of the Vizconde massacre.

In another chop chop film— “The Lipa Massacre: God Save the Babies!”— Vilma Santos portrayed Mrs. Helen Arandia, wife of an Overseas Filipino Worker in Saudi Arabia. The Star for All Seasons starred with John Regala, Joel Torre, and then-child actors Charina Scott and Angelica Panganiban in this 1994 movie. While boarding a plane back to the Philippines, Mr. Ronald Arandia (played by Joel Torre) was shocked when he saw his murdered family on a newspaper's front page. The killer (John Regala) visited Mrs. Arandia at their home in Lipa City, Batangas, and brutally murdered her and her two daughters, aged 8 and 6. The film directed by Carlo Caparas won Best Picture and Best Director at the 43rd Famas Awards (1994).

“The Elsa Castillo Story: Ang Katotohanan”— directed masterfully by Laurice Guillen— popularized the term, "chop-chop lady." Starring Kris Aquino and Eric Quizon, the 1994 movie became an instant hit in the box office due to the engaging storyline and, of course, Kris' mounting popularity. Another movie of the same title, directed by Edgardo Vinarao that same year, starred Lorna Tolentino, Matt Ranillo, and Mark Gil. Based on the real life events of Elsa Castillo, the movie focuses on the tragic love triangle involving the married couple and the illicit affair between Elsa and her divorced lover. The husband found them out and, in a fit of rage, butchered his wife. Hence the term, "chop-chop."

“The Lilian Velez Story” is based on the murder of a famous actress by her leading man. Salanga wrote: “The popularity of massacre movies dug up an old case involving actress-singer Lilian Velez. Lilian, who gained popularity as a film actress for LVN Pictures after World War II. She was the leading lady of actor Bernardo "Narding" Anzures in tha films, Binibiro Lamang Kita, Ang Estudyante, and Sa Kabukiran. The success of these prompted LVN Pictures to change Lilian's leading man, and Bernardo Anzures was replaced by Jaime de la Rosa. Bernardo became thoroughly distressed, for he harbored an "obsession" for Lilian, reports said. On the night of June 26, 1948, Bernardo visited Lilian unexpectedly at her Quezon City home and stabbed her to death. A housemate who attempted to help Lilian was also killed. Bernardo was arrested, tried, and convicted for the murders. He later died in jail due to tuberculosis; his motive for the killings never established. Forty-seven years after the crime, in 1995, it was dramatized by Sharon Cuneta (Lilian Velez) and Cesar Montano (Bernardo Azurnes). Although the case was long past, moviegoers were still hyped up by the star quality of Sharon and her portrayal as Lilian

Filipino Hijacker Jumps Out of Plane with Home-made Parachute

In May 2000, a man armed with a hand grenade and hand gun hijacked a Philippine Airlines flight robbed 219 passengers and leapt out of plane in a ski mask, swimming goggles and homemade parachute in a remote mountainous region of Quezon Province, southeast of Manila. The flight was on its way from Davao to Manila. At one point the hijacker fired a shot. The pilot told AP, “He was very tense. I don’t think there’s any political implications. He had family problems. He needed the money, so that’s what happened.”

The Airbus A330 descended to an altitude of 3000 meters at the hijackers request, the cabin was depressurized and the man jumped out and was killed. His body was found separated from the parachute. An investigator said, “It appears that the parachute opened when he got out of the plane...somehow along the way the ropes gave way.

Taiwanese- and Chinese-Run Scams in the Philippines

In April 2013, Oliver Teves of Associated Press reported: “Philippine authorities have arrested 16 Taiwanese in connection with an online scam that mostly targeted retirees living in China and Taiwan. The suspects pretended to be bank employees and persuaded victims to reveal their account numbers and other details, said Ronald Aguto, chief of the Computer Crimes Division of the Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation. He said suspects called retirees and told them their accounts had been compromised and must be upgraded or changed. Others represented themselves as prosecutors and persuaded their victims to settle nonexistent complaints by depositing money to a syndicate's account, he said. [Source: Oliver Teves, Associated Press, April 3, 2013 ]

“The suspects, 15 males and one female, were arrested in three separate houses inside the Subic Bay Freeport, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Manila, Aguto said. He said the group used Internet telephone connections and read from prepared scripts when talking to the victims. "When they think they could not convince the person, they would say, 'Somebody will call you,' or, 'You can call this number of the prosecutor's office or another branch of government,' ... and they have another script for that," Aguto said. He said his bureau was tipped off by a concerned citizen and the scam had been going on for two months. Agents recovered computers, telephones and fake credit cards, some of them still blank, he said.

“Philippine police arrested and deported nearly 300 Taiwanese and Chinese nationals involved in a similar scam in 2012. Aguto said the syndicate continued to operate in small cells, including the one busted this week. He said that the suspects face charges of illegal use of electronic access devices such as ATM and credit cards. A more comprehensive anti-cybercrime law is still under review by the Supreme Court. If convicted, each suspect could face six to 20 years in prison. In last year's cases, however, the Philippine government sent Taiwanese suspects to their home country to face charges there, at Taiwan's request.

Bloody Bank Robberies in the Philippines

In May 2014, police shot dead eight suspected robbers in a gun battle at a checkpoint near Manila, a statement said. It said officers in the town of Silang, 44 kilometres (28 miles) south of Manila, received a tip that nine men riding four motorcycles were on their way to rob a store. Police set up a checkpoint but the motorcycle riders drove through it, sparking a shootout. [Source: May 27, 2014]

In July 2012, reported: “Three people were killed following a bank robbery in Quezon province. Senior Superintendent Valeriano de Leon, Quezon province police director, said three bank security guards— Roldan Consigna, Joel Barrameda and Marlo de Guzman—died while undergoing treatment in the hospital after still unidentified suspects stormed the United Coconut Planters Bank in Lucena City before 4:00pm. De Guzman made it alive at Mt. Carmel Hospital in a “critical condition,” but died afterwards, De Leon said. Information on how they staged their attack and other details including whether they were able to escape with the money were not immediately available. [Source:, July 26, 2012]

In December 2010, Associated Press reported: “Philippine police say robbers, not communist rebels, are responsible for seizing a passenger bus and engaging security forces in a highway chase and gun battle that killed four civilians. The army initially blamed communist rebels for the shootout east of Manila. However, Quezon provincial Police Chief Eric Velasquez said an investigation showed three robbers seized the bus as a getaway vehicle and fired on police and army troops chasing them. Heays the bus conductor, one male, and two female passengers were killed after the driver slammed the bus into a tree. Velasquez says two suspects are in custody and one escaped.[Source: Associated Press, December 2, 2010]

Bank Robbers Kill Ten in the Philippines

In May 2008, Lee Glendinning wrote in The Guardian, “Bank employees were lined up and shot dead in an execution-style robbery carried out in the Philippines today, in what police called the bloodiest bank raid in the country's history. The victims were found sprawled on the floor at a branch of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) in Cabuyao town, in Laguna province, after the bank failed to open and customers alerted authorities. Seven employees, a depositor and a security guard were killed in the robbery. Another employee was in a critical condition in hospital and later died. "This is the handiwork of the devil and we will not let this pass," said Chief Superintendent Ricardo Padilla. "They were killed in a gangland-style execution. Each of the victims shot in the head while lined up." [Source: Lee Glendinning and agencies, The Guardian, May 16, 2008]

According to police, there was no sign of forced entry but the back door of the branch was open. It is thought the robbers could have used silencers on their weapons, because residents did not report hearing any shots being fired. The victims, including two found inside the open bank vault, were shot at point-blank range. Their bodies showed no bruises or other signs that they had resisted. Police believe several people took part in the robbery, and called it "a very complex operation". Detectives have recovered empty bullet shells from at least four different types of guns.

“One security guard who was supposed to come in for daytime duty was missing, leading authorities to suspect he was involved in the robbery. "They (the robbers) were probably here early morning," Rojas said. "There was no reason why they should kill the employees, so most probably they knew one or two of the robbers." Philippine and US currency worth around US$10,000 was found on the floor of the bank. The amount taken by the robbers was not yet clear. A vehicle owned by one of the bank employees, which police believe was used as a getaway car, was recovered several miles away and was being checked for fingerprints.

On the same crime on person posted on YouTube: The bloodiest bank robberies in the Philippines happened early on May 16, 2008 at about 8:00am in Cabuyao Laguna Philippines. Ten people were killed inside the RCBC bank. According to the report nine employees and one client were shot in the head at point blank range. The suspects left no trace and destroyed security cameras. The theory of the investigators is that the suspects entered the bank early morning and did their butchery before the bank opened for business. The bank are suppose to open at 9:00 am but didn’t so the clients of the bank called the police to check what happen. When the police arrived they forcibly opened the door when no one answered their call. The police were shocked when they saw the bodies of people inside scattered around the bank in pools of blood. They found one still breathing but after two days he died at the hospital. He could have been the lone witness who would have identified the perpetrators of the crime. Another theory of the investigators is that the robbers original plan was to get the money only but they were forced to do what they did to hide their identities. [Source: YouTube]

Reuters reported: “National police Chief Avelino Razon said yesterday that his men were looking at the possible involvement of a known robbery gang in the bank killings, but declined to give details. The bank and private contributors raised 2 million pesos (£24,300) as a reward for the capture of the killers. Police set up checkpoints and intensified patrols around Laguna, where several multinational companies have set up factories and assembly plants.

Robbers Kill Teller, Two Guards in Bank Van Heist

In November 2008, GMANews reported, “Six unidentified men shot dead a bank teller and two security guards in an armored van robbery outside the Philippine Veterans Bank branch at the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City. The three men were shot dead outside the UP Bahay ng Alumni, where the bank is housed, shortly before 1 p.m., the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) chief, Senior Superintendent Magtanggol Gatdula, told GMANews.TV. The robbers, in bonnets and bullet-proof vests, pounced on an armored van, with body number 3189 and plate number MDB 379, that had just arrived at the bank, which is located at the Bahay ng Alumni, in front of the Cine Adarna building of the UP Film Institute. [Source: Sophia Dedace and Mark Merueñas, GMANews, November 10, 2008]

“Authorities said the guards were on their way back to the van after dropping off money to the bank when the assailants attacked. As of this posting, bank officials have not determined how much the money the robbers took, according to the chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), Director Jefferson Soriano. Chief Inspector Enrico Figueroa, chief of the QCPD Theft and Robbery Division, identified the teller as Genaro Aguirre and the guards as Rene Demerey and Renato Reyes.

The robbers fled aboard a blue Mitsubishi Adventure, which probers found abandoned about 500 meters from the crime scene, outside the Department of Citizens' Military Training (DCMT) compound, according to Figueroa. According to two student witnesses, the robbers then transferred to a maroon Toyota Revo, but the witnesses were not able to note down the plate number.

Probers found two bottles of urine inside the abandoned Adventure, which led them to believe that the robbers had been staking out inside the van prior to the robbery. They also found one license plate number inside the van, two baseball caps, and several rounds of .30-caliber ammunition, the type used by military personnel for their M-14 or M-1 rifles. The plate number attached to the blue Adventure is WKJ 409. The other plate number (SFV 903), recovered inside the van, was used to conceal the van's real plate during the robbery incident.

According to Gatdula, the QCPD immediately dispatched lawmen to the crime scene immediately, but they were delayed for awhile because UP does not allow the regular police to enter its campus without permission from university officials. The QC police chief added that he already met with a UP official to discuss the dangers of having an open university where anyone can enter. Three decades ago, during the regime of late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, a group of militant students closed off the entire campus and formed the now famous Diliman Commune, where government officials, even the police, had been barred from entering.

Pirate Attacks in the Philippines

Two Filipino sailors were charged with throwing a Japanese captain to his death off his ship, a 143,333-ton tnaker, as it was sailing in waters off Taiwan.

In March 2009, reported: “Three people were killed while two others were taken hostage when pirates attacked a trawler off Basilan Island in Mindanao, a local government official said. “We condemn this attack and the authorities are now searching for those taken by pirates," Basilan Vice Gov. Al Rasheed Sakkalahul said. Quoting police reports, he said the pirates opened fire at the fishing boat, boarded the vessel, and killed three crewmen. The bodies of the slain crewmen were later recovered. "We don’t know whether the two hostages are still alive or not," Sakkalahul said. [Source: Al Jacinto,, March 8, 2009]

Sakkalahul said authorities recovered the trawler but found it emptied and stripped of important parts. He said he had ordered maritime police and the Marines to intensify patrols at sea following the pirate attack. No group claimed responsibility for the hijacking, but the attacks on trawlers and fishermen are not uncommon at sea around Basilan, a known bailiwick of Abu Sayyaf terrorists and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels. In January, Abu Sayyaf gunmen intercepted a small boat carrying state teachers off Zamboanga City and seized the trio and brought them by boat to Basilan.

Armed Men Hijack Postal Van with Japanese Mail

In January 2011, Amita Legaspi wrote in GMANews.TV: “A van of the Philippine Postal Corporation (Philpost) carrying local and international mail was hijacked by unidentified armed men in Silang, Cavite. Lawyer Antonio de Guzman, officer-in-charge Postmaster General and chief executive officer, told reporters that the Philpost van, a Suzuki delivery truck (SGV 238), could not be located as of posting time. The van was also carrying valuable packages from Japan at the time of the incident, De Guzman said. [Source: Amita Legaspi, GMANews.TV. January 14, 2011 ||||]

“In an interview with reporters, De Guzman said he suspects an "inside job." "Alam ko me contact din sa loob yan e. Alam nila yung mail van kung me valuable na laman. Mostly coming from Japan (na mga packages ang hina-hijack)," de Guzman noted. It was the sixth hijacking incident involving a Philpost van in the last two years. The latest happened just before Christmas. De Guzman added that most of the incidents happened in Cavite and Laguna. ||||

“Citing initial reports, De Guzman said van driver Edward Bernabe and courier Eduardo Balanag were dropped off by the hijackers in Barangay (village) Biga in Silang town. It was not known, however, how many suspects were involved in the incident. He could not provide other details yet as they are still gathering information on the incident. The driver and the courier were still in Silang, Cavite. ||||

“De Lima was also surprised how the culprits were able to evade arrest and prosecution. "Why have they evaded, all this time, successful investigation and prosecution? These are very serious matters that have to be looked into this time," she said. De Guzman said they have provided security escorts for some of their vans due to the rampant hijacking incidents. However, he admitted, they cannot protect all their vans due to lack of funds. He added their security personnel were provided with short firearms, which are not enough when faced with the high-powered firearms of the hijackers. ||||

“De Guzman added that the Philpost shelled out some P3 million as indemnity to the owners of the mail and packages stolen last month. He said they paid P8,000 for every package and P2,800 for the documents. "Pag na-inventory na namin they (owners of the packages and mails) will be notified. Ang liability namin dyan ay for parcel P8,000 plus ang babayaran namin, for documents we will pay P2,800," De Guzman said. ||||

Counterfeiting and White Collar Crimes in the Philippines

The Philippines was named in a report on money laundering by the Group of 7 as one of 15 countries that is a potential haven for ill-gotten wealth. Philippine police and U.S. officials once seized $2 trillion worth of fake U.S., German and Argentine bonds and counterfeit cash in dollars and yen is southern Mindanao.

In the early 2000s, 2 million Filipinos lost around $2 billion as three pyramid schemes collapsed at roughly the same time. Many people lost their entire life’s savings, including some former overseas workers who had accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars.

One the schemes involved investing in a phony Telecom company that promised returns of up to 60 percent. Money from new investors was used to pay early investors until the whole thing collapsed. The mastermind of the scheme fled the country and sent his photo to some investors with the message “Catch me if you can” scribbled on it.

In April 2014, Julliane Love De Jesus wrote in the Philippines Inquirer, “Police seized recently several pieces of counterfeit money in Taguig City from a couple following a month-long surveillance. Expressing alarm over criminals brazenly selling fake money, Tagum said the fake bills have already reached some provinces in the Visayas and Luzon. He said criminals engage in the production of counterfeit peso bills because of the big financial return. “With just P150, a middleman can sell a P500 bill or higher. It has become a business to the dealers because of the good return of their investment,” he said. [Source: Julliane Love De Jesus, Philippines Inquirer, April 3, 2014]

Kidnapping in the Philippines

The Philippines along with Mexico, Columbia, Guatemala, and Brazil, have the highest kidnapping rates in the world. Manila was voted the "kidnap capital of Asia" by Fortune magazine. By one count there were 2,100 kidnappings between 1993 and 2002, resulting in the payment of $50 million in ransoms. Kidnapping is one of the main things that scares off foreign investors and foreign tourists thinking about the Philippines.

Kidnapping has traditionally been regarded by some as an easy way to make money. In many cases the victims are seized while they are in vehicles by gunmen who use a truck or other vehicle to block the vehicle carrying the victims. The kidnappers typically spend some time observing the habits and routine of their victims before making their moves

Many of the kidnappings are carried out by organized groups with names like the Pentagon Gang and Alex Boncayao Brigade, some of whom have connections with terrorists and insurgents. The Alex Boncayao Brigade has been described as an urban Communist assassination squad. The Pentagon Gang is made up of rogue Muslim rebels. It was accused of carrying out 30 abductions between 2000 and 2004. By one count there were 21 known kidnapping syndicates in the early 2000s. Some reportedly worked with Hong Kong Triads that tipped them off when big deposits of cash are coming to Manila.

The southern island of Basilan is regarded as a major center for kidnapping. During the 1990s a number of businessmen were kidnapped there. In the 2000s, the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf claimed credit for many of the crimes. In 2001, authorities recorded 82 kidnappings, 32 deaths by gun shot wounds and 19 beheadings on Basilan. A doctor who was in charge of sewing back on the heads told the International Herald Tribune, “One head in a day for a funeral is O.K. But when you must suture heads on four people you knew, you cannot sleep that night”.

See Terrorists

Filipino-Style Kidnapping

The Philippines government bars the payment of ransoms to kidnappers. Even so money exchanges hands and is generally described as “room and board.” In a typical case involving the family of a rich ethnic Chinese, the kidnappers first demand $100,000 and after some bargain settle for $20,000. The hostage is released far from home after the money has been delivered. The going rate for local hostages is around $5,000 per head, more for a hostage from a rich family. A Filipino businessman had to pay $55,000 to win the release of his wife, who was five months pregnant.

Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times, “ Several short cuts appear to have evolved, according to various accounts. A child is kidnapped at a shopping mall. An accomplice approaches the frantic mother and escorts her to the nearest automated teller machine. When enough money has been withdrawn, the accomplice tells the mother where in the mall, or nearby, she can pick up the child. In another version, a man is forced at gunpoint into a car. "Don't make things difficult for yourself," the kidnappers say. "Why make us go to all the trouble of taking you to a safe house?" They negotiate a sum, the victim makes out a check to cash and the car stops and lets him out.[Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, March 17, 1996 ]

“Kidnapping is so common that it has taken on copycat forms. Lovers' quarrels, business disputes and even fraternity pranks now sometimes play themselves out in kidnappings. For a time in late 1994, kidnappings eased off somewhat as extortionists targeted Chinese-owned auto parts suppliers, trucking off their inventories at gunpoint instead of their children and holding them for ransom. One kidnapping victim proved to his abductors that they had the wrong man, according to Mrs. Ang See's records, so they accepted what little he had and let him go. In another case, when the kidnappers failed in an attempted abduction, they persuaded the family to pay anyway to prevent another try. After a different failed attempt, angry kidnappers said they would be back for a second try, causing the target family to flee the country. Adding to the nervousness of parents, the kidnapper is occasionally a nanny or houseboy. In two cases recorded by Mrs. Ang See, it was an uncle.

See Terrorists

Kidnapping Victims

Most of the kidnap victims are Chinese-Filipino businessmen. Kidnappers often go after ethnic Chinese because they have money and often don't contact the police. In the early 2000s, kidnappings of ethnic Chinese became so routine that ethnic Chinese sent their loved ones out of the country and turned their homes in fortresses, hired body guards and staying him a lot more and when they did go out they carried guns and rode in armor-plated vehicles with bulletproof glass.

In a typical case in August 2004, a Chinese-Filipino who owns a coastal resort was kidnapped along with his two sons. They were driving along when gun men on a motorcycle and in a sedan blocked the SUV they were driving in. In November 2003, attention was drawn to the kidnapping issue when Chinese-Filipina financial executive Betti Chua bled to death while in the hands of her kidnappers.

In the early 2000s, kidnappers began kidnapping more people from affluent non-Chinese Filipino families. In one case, a 10-year-old girl from an affluent Filipino sugar dynasty family and her 5-year-old brother were pulled from a van that was to going to take them school. The kidnappers blocked the van with a pick up truck and broke the van’s windows, and fired bullets from M-16s into the tires and into the air.

Kidnapping of Ethnic Chinese in the 1990s

In 1996, Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times, “The kidnapper's speech impediment gave him away. As he negotiated with Jepson Dichaves over the amount of ransom for the businessman's two small sons, he kept stumbling over the word for cheapskate. "He tried to disguise his voice by making it lower," Mr. Dichaves said, "but I recognized him. He has a short tongue, and there was one word he could not pronounce: kakuriputan. It means cheapskate. He kept telling me I was a cheapskate and did not love my sons." In the end, Mr. Dichaves, a wealthy Filipino-Chinese importer of fan belts and other rubber goods, talked the ransom down to 1.5 million pesos — about $60,000 — and the kidnapper, whom he recognized from his Tagalog-language pronunciation as a business associate named Ernesto Uyboco, freed his sons, aged 2 and 5. [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, March 17, 1996 ]

“In the last three years, 665 people have been kidnapped in the Philippines, most of them ethnic Chinese, said Teresita Ang See, who heads a citizens' group that monitors the issue. Of these, 31 have been killed. Victims have acknowledged paying more than $11 million in ransom in this period, though Mrs. Ang See said the true figure was probably much higher. Thw highly visible role of the Chinese in Philippine economic growth — the Chinese-owned shopping malls and high-rises that are transforming Manila — have made them obvious targets for extortion. Members of the Chinese business community agree that investment has been affected but say it is impossible to estimate the amounts involved.

"I am told that some members of the Chinese community keep 5 or 10 million pesos at home," said Solita Monsod, a leading economist, "and hope that when it's their turn they will be kidnapped by the professionals, because then they know they will not get hurt. They just budget for it." It is the parents of young children who worry the most. Hundreds of Filipino-Chinese families have sent their children abroad to school, Mrs. Ang See said. Those who have not mostly keep them at home, a number of parents say, forbidding visits to malls, video parlors and movies. One Chinese high school recently canceled its prom.

With danger seeming to lurk around every corner, many ethnic Chinese here have learned to live defensively, varying their routines, avoiding strangers, screening employees and eliminating much of their night life. In Binondo, Manila's Chinese quarter, shops close at 5 or 6 P.M. now and business at restaurants is down. "Me, I try to avoid Manila," said Benson Dakay, a Filipino-Chinese entrepreneur on the central island of Cebu, which is comparatively isolated from the kidnapping wave. And when he does visit, he said, he varies his schedule and where he stays. "Now I have to apologize to my kids for being very paranoid," Mrs. Ang See said. "My younger child — he is 10 years old — feels very bad that he has to stick to me all the time in the mall. I tell him, 'Sorry, but I don't have the money to ransom you.' "

Military- and Police-Connected Filipino Kidnappers Go Free

Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times, “ Kidnapping for ransom has become a booming business here, made all the more difficult to combat by the frequent involvement of police officers in kidnapping rings. In Mr. Dichaves's case one of his children's kidnappers accomplices turned out to be a retired army colonel. [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, March 17, 1996 ]

“Although the kidnapper was caught red-handed and admitted his guilt, he has managed for more than two years to buy his way out of being prosecuted. Mr. Dichaves's experience, though horrifying, was not very different from that of an increasing number of his countrymen. In Mr. Dichaves's case, his children's kidnapper has not even faced an arraignment, even though he was caught in the act of recovering the ransom money, the recovery was videotaped by the police and his victims identified him in a lineup. Indeed, Mr. Dichaves said, Mr. Uyboco, who is still in custody, apologized to his wife and said he had treated the children well.

“It is a measure of the pervasiveness of police and military involvement in the kidnappings that despite their seeming immunity within an often corrupt law enforcement system, a number of officers have been tried and convicted. William Chua, an ethnic Chinese lawyer, summed up the public view with a joke. In New York, he said, the police respond to a kidnapping in seven minutes. In London they arrive in just three minutes. But in the Philippines they are the fastest of all: they are on the scene at the moment the crime is committed.

The families of kidnap victims do not like to make payments through the military or police out of fear they will skim off money. Because of the fear that "if you call the police you might be reporting the crime to your own kidnappers” victims often tend to cooperate, making the kidnapper's job all the easier, Ang See told the New York Times.

Foreign Kidnapping Victims

Japanese, Taiwanese and Chinese nationals have been the targets of kidnappings. The capture and release or two kidnappers who kidnapped a Japanese businessman in November 1986, almost set off an international incident between Japan and the Philippines.

The ransoms paid for foreigners tend to be much more than those paid for locals. In June 2001, a Singaporean woman paid $165,745 to Filipino kidnappers to free her husband. “I was cornered into a situation where I had to make a decision for the safety of my husband,” she told a Singaporean newspaper.

In 1996, the son of the military attaché of Taiwan's unofficial embassy was released unharmed after a ransom of $38,500 was paid. Explaining why he drive home with a flat tire, one Taiwanese businessman in Manila told AFP, “Buying a new car is much cheaper than paying ransom.”

The foreigners don’t have to be wealthy. In 2001, the notorious “Pentagon” kidnapping gang abducted four Chinese nationals working on road project. Two were killed in a rescue attempt. One escaped. The other was freed with the assistance of the Libyan government.

In 2010, Joel D Adriano wrote in the Asia Times, “Foreign kidnappings are also on the rise. On April 4, Swiss businessman Carl Reith was kidnapped from his beach home in Zamboanga on Mindanao island. He was rescued by the police two months later in a raid that killed one of the suspects. On April 11, Salvacion Gorenio, an American national, was kidnapped near her house in Cavite, a province just outside Metro Manila. After nearly a month in captivity she was rescued by the police in an operation that killed all three suspects. In July, Japanese national Amir Katayama Mamaito, a treasure hunter who operated a local pharmacy, was kidnapped in southern Sulu province. He is still being held at an unknown location. [Source: Joel D Adriano, Asia Times, August 17, 2010]

According to Pete Troillo, director of business intelligence at Pacific Strategies and Assessments Inc, a risk consulting firm, at least 33 foreigners were kidnapped in the Philippines last year, mostly Indian nationals. Indians are considered prime targets because many of them are engaged in small-time informal lending and hence often carry large amounts of cash. Chinese, Korean and American nationals, all of whom are believed capable of paying high ransoms, have also been frequently targeted, Troillo said. Including local victims, 139 people were kidnapped in the Philippines last year, up slightly from the 135 snatched in 2008. [Ibid]

Bob wrote in his blog “If you are a Caucasian foreigner and stay out of dangerous areas in Mindanao, you probably don’t need to worry about being kidnapped. Except for Mindanao, kidnappers generally target rich Chinese-Filipinos (Chinoys). Generally, they pay ransom without going to the police. The police have been reported to be involved in such kidnappings. Some foreign businessmen and aid workers have been kidnapped, usually Japanese. Remember, the vast majority of retirees are pensioners who live on modest retirement pensions — not good kidnap ransom targets. Kidnapping a rich Chinoy businessman really boils down to negotiations over the size of the ransom. Kidnapping a foreigner invites complications. [Source:]

Cracking Down on Kidnapping

The number of kidnappings dropped in the 2000s as part of an anti-crime campaign. President Arroyo declared war on kidnappers. She brought back the death penalty for kidnappers and created the anti-kidnapping Police Anti-Crime Emergency Response (PACER) unit. By 2004, six of the 21 known kidnapping gangs had been broken up.

In November 2001, Philippines soldiers shot and killed 10 members of the Pentagon gang. In August 2004, the leader of the group was killed along with more than a dozen members in a rocket attack on his hideout by helicopters. In December 2003, the Philippine National Police arrested or killed three of the top 10 kidnapping suspects in a period of just a couple weeks.

Even so many Filipinos regarded the police as incompetent. They cite botched rescue attempts, police apathy and slow prosecution. Many don’t even report kidnappings when they occur.

Seven Philippines Kidnap Suspects Slain in Police Raid

In 2009, police rescued a kidnapped factory owner and shot dead all seven suspects involved in crime in Taytay, Rizal and Caloocan City. Associated Press reported: “Michelle Tan, 30, was snatched from her garment factory in Navotas and forced into a Toyota Revo van (WRX-824). Her kidnappers demanded an initial ransom of P3 million for her release, said PACER chief Senior Superintendent Isagani Nerez. In other reports, Northern Police District (NPD) director Chief Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao Jr. said the kidnappers demanded P5 million. [Source: Mike Frialde, Associated Press, August 12, 2009 |*|]

“Police said Tan’s kidnappers, reportedly led by a certain Faustino Funtanar, belong to a group composed of remnants of the Waray-Waray kidnap gang. At around 10:45 p.m. Monday, police agents traced Tan using information from her relatives and stormed a house on West Bank Road in Barangay San Juan, Taytay, where she was being held, Nerez said. Two of Tan’s captors were injured when they shot it out with police. They were declared dead on arrival at a nearby hospital. Two .38 caliber revolvers were recovered from them. Two other suspects managed to escape during the shootout by going through the back door. |*|

“The family kept negotiating the delivery of the ransom with the other five suspects, who were unaware Tan had been rescued, Nerez said. Caloocan City police chief Senior Superintendent Jude Sanots said “it was agreed that the ransom would be paid somewhere… in Caloocan.” The suspects were about to pick up the supposed ransom at the back of Palmera Homes in Camarin when they were intercepted at a checkpoint along Almar street. “The suspects’ getaway vehicle, a white Toyota Avanza taxi (TYP-282), was (stolen) last week along Monumento in Caloocan. It was already marked by the police,” Santos said. |*|

“When police tried to flag the van down, the suspects sped off towards Bagong Silang. Police officers gave chase until they cornered the suspects at the boundary of Sampaguita Subdivision and Bankers Village. “The suspects ignored orders for them to surrender and exchanged shots for at least 10 minutes with my men until they were killed on the spot,” Nerez said. Police recovered from the taxi the license plate of the Revo used in Tan’s kidnapping, a cell phone used to contact Tan’s family, a .45 caliber pistol, three .38 caliber revolvers, and a .9mm pistol. A blue police t-shirt, part of the Philippine National Police’s athletic uniform, was also recovered from the vehicle. Other items recovered from the vehicle were a bloodstained pillow, bloodied dentures, shattered window glass, face towels and candy wrappers. |*|

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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