‘Goodbye Bombay!’: ‘5-6’ lending scheme new focus of Duterte gov’t

Posted on January 11, 2017

MEETING WITH HIS Cabinet on Monday night, President Rodrigo R. Duterte took up the “‘5-6’ money lending scheme” and “ordered the arrest and deportation of foreigners involved” in this “usurious” scheme, “especially Punjabis from India,” according to a Facebook post by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol.

Mr. Piñol, in his Facebook post on Tuesday titled “Goodbye Bombay!,” quoted Mr. Duterte as saying: “Sobra na yan. Pautangin ng 5-6 (interest rate) tapos bentahan pa ng mahal na mga appliance. Patay talaga ang pobre dyan (That’s too much. Lending money at 5-6 and then even selling to borrowers expensive appliance. That will really kill the poor).”

“They are violating Philippine laws by indulging in a money-making business without the necessary permits,” Mr. Piñol also quoted Mr. Duterte as saying.

The agriculture chief also claimed, “There are about 50,000 motorcycle-riding Punjabis involved in a money-lending scheme where borrowers pay back a P5,000 peso loan with a P1,000 interest in one month collected on a daily basis.”

Mr. Piñol’s post, which was accompanied in part by a Googled photograph of an Indian man on a motorcycle, had 12,000 “likes” and other reactions as well as more than 7,000 shares as of Tuesday night. Comments in response to the post included such remarks as “Patay kang bombay ka (You’re dead, Indian),” “Alsa balutan na mga bombay hehehe (The Indians will now leave hehehe),” and “Paano po yung mga pinoy na may 5-6 rin po? Pde rin b sila i reklamo? (What about Pinoys who are also into 5-6? Can they be reported, too?).” Others in the comments thread were tagging their fellow nationals, at least going by their users’ names.

The Bureau of Immigration was sought for comment regarding Mr. Piñol’s numbers -- in view of the agency’s mandate to document and monitor the estimated 50,000 Punjabis, none of whom have presumably become Filipino citizens.

But BI Spokesperson Antonette I. Mangrobang said in response: “Given that the information came from Sec. Piñol, kindly direct the queries to him, regarding the facts and statistics.”

Asked if the deferral to Mr. Piñol meant that the BI has not provided him records of Indian nationals in the country, Ms. Mangrobang replied: “I personally do not know his source Ma’am so I apologize I cannot answer that question categorically.”

She added that the bureau is awaiting an official directive in connection with Mr. Duterte’s order for the arrest and deportation of these money lenders.

Mr. Piñol also said in his post that “President Duterte asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. to inform the Indian Ambassador of his decision to stop the usurious lending scheme in the Philippines.” As of this reporting, the Indian Embassy has not responded to a request for comment on Mr. Piñol’s post.

Mr. Piñol also wrote that “DTI Sec. Ramon Lopez said the proliferation of the “5-6” lending is mainly due to the inability of government lending institutions to provide an easy access facility for small businessmen.”

“Sec. Lopez said DTI has already designed a scheme on how to extend soft loans to small businessmen with an interest of 20% every year, payable in one year,” Mr. Piñol wrote.

Mr. Lopez was sought for comment to clarify if the proposal attributed to him does not itself qualify as a 5-6 scheme, but he has not responded as of this reporting.

For his part, Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II in his briefing on Tuesday said Indian nationals engaged in “5-6” “could be arrested without any warrant because when they are doing that, they are committing a crime.” -- with Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral and Kristine Joy V. Patag