Living in the Philippines is something that I enjoy. I’ve been here for nearly a decade already, and I have been happy, after a period of adjusting to the different life here. But, is there anything that actually scares me about living here? Not really, I suppose. At least I can say that I don’t lose any sleep worrying about any scenarios that could cause trouble in my life here.
Maybe I should worry a bit more, it’s hard to say. A friend of mine said something to me the other day that made me think a bit.
A few days ago, a friend and I were having a discussion. During our talk, which was on all kinds of subjects related to living in the Philippines, he confided to me that his only fear about living here was this:
What if I were ever accused of a crime here?
Well, it is certainly something that could scare the heck out of you! And, it’s something that I had not really considered much. I don’t expect to be accused of any kind of crime, but… “what if?”
The thing is, as a foreigner here, you basically have no rights. A lot of Americans living here will tell me that he has this Constitutional right, or another, referring to the United States Constitution. Hey, Joe… sorry, but you left the US Constitution behind when you stepped off that plane in Manila! Sorry, but you are no longer covered by the US Constitution when you are not in the USA. Sure, the Philippine Constitution has many rights too… but in practice, you may or may not get those benefits!
I was reading an article online a few days ago. It was about a Japanese man who got accused of the crime of Illegal Recruiting here in the Philippines. According to the article, he had offered some Filipinos the ability to get a Visa to go to Japan, in exchange for money. Apparently, according to the article, he had friends at the Japanese Embassy who could help get these Visas.
He was charged with this crime in 2003, and had been held in the Bureau of Immigration Prison ever since. That is more than 6 years that he was imprisoned. Guess what? In 2008, they dropped the charges. Apparently, there must not have been enough evidence to take him to trial. So, he was held from 2003 until 2008 in prison, but had never been convicted of any crime, and eventually he was not even accused of any crime.
But, there is more. In 2008 when the charges against this man were dropped, he was not released from Prison. Why? Because now he was an “overstaying and undesirable alien.” In other words, his Visa had expired. Well, of course it had expired, he had been held in jail for more than 6 years! So, in the past week or so, this fellow was deported because he had overstayed his visa.
Maybe this man committed a crime, maybe not. I can’t say for sure. What I can say, though, is that he was never convicted of committing any crime, and eventually was not even accused of having done so. Yet, he was imprisoned for more than 6 years. It could happen to you or me too.
Many foreigners think that if they were to be accused, their Embassy will get them out of trouble. Sorry, Jack, it ain’t gonna happen. Your Embassy is there to come and check on you. They will make sure you are not being mistreated (in other words, they aren’t torturing you and that kind of thing), and if you are mistreated they will probably file a complaint. But, they certainly won’t make the Philippines change their laws to let you off. They won’t be able to speed up the system. They certainly won’t be able to insert American Constitutional rights into your case. No, none of that is going to happen, so don’t count on it.
So, do I lose any sleep over the possibility of being accused of some crime? Nope, none at all. But, when I think about the possibility of something like that happening, I certainly don’t feel all warm and fuzzy either.
This is one of the reasons why you want to behave in a respectful way here. Don’t make people lose face. Don’t embarrass people. Doing these kinds of things is only inviting people to falsely accuse you. Or, if you get mad and do something to project your anger, you may actually commit a crime that you don’t even know about. For example, did you know that a foreigner insulting a Filipino is a crime, and you can be deported for that? It is.