Scared, Chinese-Filipinos flee PH to start anew abroad
Second of a series
MANILA, Philippines—Ten years before the kidnapping and murder of Betti Chua Sy, a funeral-protest march 10 kilometers long and attended by 20,000 people was held for another victimized member of the Chinese-Filipino community.
Charlene Mayne Sy (no relations), 15, was kidnapped and killed in January 1993, en route to school in the family van. A five-vehicle convoy staged her abduction.
The kidnappers’ radio frequency was monitored by the police who set up a roadblock, but the kidnappers opened fire, wounding two officers. Not realizing that Charlene was in the lead car which had heavily tinted windows, the police shot and killed all four kidnappers in the van—and Charlene.
The gruesome sight of Charlene’s bloodied corpse still in her school uniform, laid out beside her four kidnappers on the corner sidewalk of Edsa and Quezon Boulevard, was surreal. Chinese schools, Binondo stores and car parts shops on Banawe in Quezon City, all closed to attend Charlene’s funeral. Huge streamers read: After Charlene, who’s next?
Forced out of comfort zone
Later that day, Chinese-Filipino brothers, aged 11 and 14, were rescued by the police, no thanks to their mother who, frightened, had refused to report the abduction. A tip from an informant helped police track down the boys and their nine abductors.
No one can blame the victims’ next-of-kin for not wanting to report kidnappings, not knowing the “bad cops” from the good, preferring to haggle with kidnappers, then pay the ransom.
Apprehensive, some send their schoolchildren abroad. Singapore alone has 200 Chinese-Filipino students. Whole families also have abandoned comfortable lives here to live in strange surroundings and start new livelihoods from scratch. Some of the siblings of Teresita Ang See, leader of the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO), have fled.
Ang See worked hard in the 1990s to convince victims to report such crimes to the police. But when a kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) victim entered the room of a high-ranking officer in Camp Crame, there sat his kidnapper. The victim fled.
Very recent events have exposed the fact that more than a few policemen, including high-ranking officers, are heavily involved in KFR exploits.
William Chua, deceased partner in the Yorac, Azcuna, Chua law office, had told The New York Times’ Seth Mydans: “In New York, 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.”
Small but feisty, Ang See led the formation of the MRPO in 1993. Women leaders in the Citizens Action Against Crime joined forces with MRPO to combat criminality, but meetings with the police led nowhere.
In 2003 alone, 156 KFRs, including non-Chinese-Filipinos, were reported. MRPO was reorganized that year composed of victims and their families. Apart from the National Anti-Kidnapping Task Force, the Presidential Anti-Crime Emergency Response (Pacer) was also organized by the Philippine National Police.
Eventually, the Pacer-MRPO partnership worked extremely well, with the number of Chinese-Filipino KFRs dropping significantly. Joint safety seminars on crime prevention were also held nationwide.
The grateful Chinese-Filipino community donated cars, mobile telephones and computers to help beef up Pacer’s ability to respond to kidnappings.
But still, KFRs proved to be so lucrative that mainland Chinese nationals tried their hand at it, too. In 2001, a gang of seven kidnapped Rowena “Jacky” Sy Tiu in San Fernando, La Union province, keeping her for eight days until her father paid a P10-million ransom.
As soon as she was released, Pacer operatives swooped down on her captors’ hotel, finding the P10 million intact and spread out on a bed. The criminals were clapped in jail.
Initially, Jacky did not press charges. But the kidnappers’ ring leader was allowed to slip out of jail and hightailed it back to the mainland. Jacky went to court.
During the harrowing nine years and eight months of court trials, Jacky said, “I felt victimized over and over again.” Leaving Manila at 2 a.m. to attend Jacky’s hearings in La Union, Ang See gave her moral support. That was part of the job at MRPO—the Court Watch group supports victims until justice is attained.
Finally, Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Antonio Rosales, mightily feared by hoodlums, sentenced six criminals to reclusion perpetua or imprisonment of 40 years, with no parole. The seventh, an accessory, received six to eight years’ imprisonment.
To be concluded
Tsinoys as kidnap targets: Hard workers, silent victims
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