Just Cause

Another round of investment scams and household robbery syndicates plagues the land. Over the past weeks, friends from the south and central, colleagues in the capital tell of tales of unfulfilled promises and disappearing funds. Some with savings and retirement money, a few with excess and those who borrowed, but all united by the need for channels to make returns exponentially and the want for material riches beyond the usual lotto dreams. Is it the entrepreneurial spirit within us, the gambling culture that permeates our society, or the laziness or boredom of everyday work?

Oldies will cite the Agrix Marketing of the 1970s and the Panata Foundation in Palawan in the late 1980s as the first of a cyclical pattern of foisted schemes, huge amounts, catastrophic falls, complaints, suits and suicides. I recall the Multitel of Rosario Baladjay, Tibayan and the Mateos of the early 2000s. The Legacy and Aman fiascos are the fairly recent ones that resonate only when mentioned. All these peddled different products and services from agriculture to telecoms, from motorcycles to loans with huge interest payments but with the same ending. Kapa, the latest incarnation, was shrined in ministry but was no different. One does not know the meaning of the word.

Warnings are made. Closures and raids are routine. Recovery is futile and cases are forever. There are no lessons to be learned; there are no souls to be saved.

In the last few days, a kasambahay intentionally fell prey to a dugo-dugo (blood-blood) gang. The couple came home from a long day to find her gone with missing valuables. She was hired a few months ago from a recommendation. Her application documents, including the vaunted NBI clearance, checked out. But now, she could no longer be found. It is a typical story were it not that after some hours, she returned to tell how she answered the landline and was utterly convinced to pry open locked drawers and cabinets with tools that were not even in the apartment.

She brought the watches and jewelry through at least two layers of building security without any alarms. Wasn’t it simpler to just not come back? Police reports followed, complaints lodged against administration, locks changed, and nerves frayed for a breach of trust and confidence that could only have been committed by a member of the household.

An arrest was made. Inquest resulted in detention without bail due to the amounts involved despite the new indexation of the crime of robbery in the Revised Penal Code. She sat through it with eyes wide open and was ready to face the consequences alone. Criminal syndication has acquired a new dimension. Will she escape soon, or will her case be delayed and eventually dismissed because of corruption? Or is her life dispensable the way justice is dispensed? This chapter we will soon know.

Budol-budol, a variant of the criminal operation, continues to be reported on occasion including by first-time tourists relying on the smiles and the English of the locals. Employee fraud of company funds pesters business owners. The government and its constituents are defrauded regularly in many ways imaginable or magical.

In conversations with contractors, the modus operandi for public works, including the sharing and splitting of commissions and margins, remains unchanged. In dialogues with developers, it is not the Citizen’s Charter that runs the business permits of the local governments, it is the graft charter. Notorious in Metro Manila are Parañaque and Pasay. Crimes of such nature are permissive and they build up, resulting in a scam that is mightier than the pyramids of Giza.

Perhaps this explains the identification and adoration by the people with heroes and superheroes in near and distant realms where people fight and die for the good, where there is beauty to truth and reward for honesty. To find a place and space where ideals are meant to be lived, where blood and toil mean something other than racketeering and trickery.

The protection against crime is prudence and caution at the first instance carried a long way forward to transactions and dealings with fellowmen. Everyday vigilance is contracted to CCTV cameras and security guards but the actual deal lies in the approach to prevention that is both science and art, and experience.

But crimes do happen regardless — the random acts, the senseless killings, and the wrong person at the right place or at the right time. The real safeguard against criminality remains an efficient, effective and economical criminal justice system that detects, investigates, tries, punishes, and reforms criminals. The certainty of judgment and the temporal karma are the visible signs and manifestations of a regime of fair and consistent laws that bind us all or none at all.

And then the corruption in justice institutions that stand for governance does not inspire but conspires and makes us despair. Where lies our hope but in get-rich opportunities to whisk us away.