6 AUGUST 2007
THIS MONTH'S FEATURES
FACES OF CHANGE AND CHANGELESS PLACES
i R E P O R T — S P A T E O F A T T A C K S A L A R M S L O C A L I N D I A N C O M M U N I T Y
But Indians in this country sound less convinced, largely because they know many of the crimes against members of their community usually go unresolved. Of the 24 crimes (robbery, holdup, kidnapping, stabbing, murder, etc.) against Indians that appear in PNP records from 2005 to June 2007, 15 remain unsolved, with the suspects still at large.
When asked why majority of the cases are still unsolved, the police replied they usually operate based on priorities. But one high-ranking police official exclaimed when he saw the list involving Indian victims: “P__ ina, napabayaan ito, ah (Son of a bitch, this was not attended to)!” He has since issued a directive for the cases to be followed up.
In fact, the official was even looking at an incomplete list, since several Indian victims are apparently illegal aliens and thus refrain from filing complaints. Yet even those with proper documents say they would not bother to go the police since, they say, they will not be given much attention anyway.
"If you complain, the police tells you, 'Siguro marami kang pera, buhay ka naman, alis ka na (Maybe you have a lot of money. But you're alive, so get out of here),” says one Indian resident in Manila. “So we keep quiet. We are on our own."
The Indian community in the Philippines, however, is quite formidable in terms of numbers. The Indian Embassy estimates that there are about 28,000 Indians in the country, although the Bureau of Immigration (BI) reports that there are 20,215 registered Indians. Most of the Indians here are either Punjabis, the rural folk, or Sindhis, historically known as the urban merchants and traders.
Writer Anita Raina Thapan says both Sindhis and Punjabis arrived in the Philippines at the end of the 19th century. The Punjabi migrants, who were mostly farmers, initially wound up as vendors or security guards, writes Thapan in the book The Philippines as Home: Settlers and Sojourners in the Country. It was only later that they went into 5-6, which was apparently something they had not tried out in Punjab. Whoever thought of the scheme and why is not known, but it has been lucrative enough to lure more and more Indians to the country. Most of Raj Singh’s relatives, for example, have already migrated to the Philippines to engage in microfinancing.
Official data, meanwhile, show that many Indian migrants were enticed to register in the mid-1990s (from 503 in 1994 to 3,141 in 1995), partly because of the implementation of the Alien Social Integration Act, which allowed those considered as “illegal aliens” to be granted legal residence status. There was another surge in registration in 2001 up until 2003, with majority of the applicants granted temporary resident visas. But last year, only 110 Indian nationals bothered to register with the immigration bureau. Some observers say that may have been because of the attacks, but the BI says the decline in registration may be partly because most already shifted to the I-card, an electronic card that replaced the paper-based Alien Certificate of Registration. Interestingly, the number of Indian arrivals increased from 26,894 in 2005 to 28,824 in 2006, or a rise of seven percent.
What has landed in some papers are views of the likes of former House Deputy Minority Leader Rolex Suplico that obviously do not help relations between Indians and Filipinos. Last year, Suplico said he feared that the Philippines would one day become a “Bumbay Republic” and urged authorities to make an inventory of all Indians here and deport all the illegals and “undesirables.”
“(They’re) everywhere, running their 5-6 business and exploiting our people,” he told a group of reporters. “We have to stop the motorcycle-riding Bumbay Invasion.”
Interviewed recently by PCIJ, Suplico, now Iloilo vice governor, clarifies that he is against “illegal Indians” only. But he does balk at the idea of Indians controlling “even a small segment of the economy” like the lending business.
“But, of course,” he says, “they’re entitled to protection.” He then recalls how an Indian who had apparently been robbed once approached him, seeking help in apprehending the perpetrators. As Suplico tells it, the Indian said he didn’t care about the money, but wanted his list of clients’ debts back. Suplico says the Indian has since graduated from going around in a motorcycle to driving a pick-up truck.
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