Back in 1982 Mel Gibson starred in a movie called “The Year of Living Dangerously.” As I recall, I saw the movie once sometime in the 90’s, although I believe I came in on the movie a bit late. Basically, the plot of the movie was set around a group of expats who were in Indonesia. Maybe you would not call these people expats, but they were foreigners who were living in, or stationed in Indonesia for their work. The “dangerously” part comes in because these foreigners get involved in reporting the seedy side of Indonesian politics, and thus the heat is on for them.
Well, perhaps the month of September 2010 can be called The Month of Living Dangerously for foreigners in the Philippines. Actually, the danger part dates back a few months, but in September things have begun to really heat up.
You see, foreigners in the Philippines are being killed regularly lately, it seems. For about 3 months or so, I have been hearing stories of foreigners being killed, but it was kind of spread over time, and it didn’t really interest me that much. I mean, if a foreigner is killed, and then a few weeks later another is killed, the time factor does not really point toward this being a real danger. People get killed all over the world, after all. But, last week, I received an e-mail with some information which lead me to some research.
Last Tuesday, I got an e-mail from a friend in Iligan. He sent this e-mail to a whole list of people, and included me. His e-mail said:
Steve was gunned down yesterday, more details to follow.
Well, my first thought when I got this e-mail was, “who the heck is Steve, and why is my friend sending this to me.” Over the course of the morning, people who received the e-mail started responding to it, and including me in their e-mails. As a few e-mails changed hands, a picture started developing and I got curious about it.
The event that my friend was talking about was an American tourist who was murdered in Iligan City last week. On September 20, Steve Kindy was shot multiple times while he was riding in a public vehicle (I believe he was in a Jeepney). Two people, including Steve, were killed, and another was wounded in the shooting. Even though there was more than one death, it is said that Steve was the target. I have also been told that Steve was carrying about US$5,000 in his pocket, but the money was untouched, so this was not a robbery.
There are lots of theories going around as to why Steve Kindy was killed, but so far, they are only rumors as far as I know. I am not going to get into the “why” because it is not known yet. I do not feel it would be fair to get into the reasons when it is really only speculation at this point. But, it is a fact that he was murdered.
When I started figuring out what this message was about, I decided to do a search of the Internet to find out what more I could learn about the circumstances surrounding the incident. It was then that I started seeing a pattern of trouble. Just during the month of September, at least 5 foreigners were killed here in the Philippines. It seems that there were 4 who were shot to death, and one who was stabbed.
On September 21, just a day after Steve Kindy’s death, a British man, Bruce Jones was gunned down in Angeles City. Jones was a British sea captain who lived in Olongopo City, but while driving through Angeles he was shot by a motorcycle riding gunman. Jones’ wife was also injured in the attack. Jones had been getting death threats for at least a year, and had asked the Philippine National Police to assign some kind of protection for him, but they refused to do so, according to reports. Jones had been involved in a bit of controversy of late, as it is reported that he smuggled guns from Indonesia into the Philippines, reportedly for terrorists in Mindanao. Jones was out on bail and strongly denied the charges.
Another American, James Basham was also gunned down on September 20, the same day that Steve Kindy was killed. Basham was a resident of Angeles City. He had gone to buy vegetables at the market, and after shopping, as he got on his motorcycle he was gunned down, again by motorcycle riding gunmen. Basham was reportedly shot in the back, and died quickly.
John Macdonald, a Scot, and an officer in the Merchant Navy was stabbed after just two days in the Philippines. It is reported that Macdonald was here to visit his Filipina Girlfriend, Nancy Romero, and was staying at her house in Angona (near Manila). John planned to propose marriage to Nancy during his visit. When John met Nancy, she also introduced him to her “brother,” who was actually her live-in Filipino Fiancee. John took Nancy and her “brother” out for dinner, and later when he made romantic advances to Nancy, her “brother” reportedly became enraged and allegedly stabbed Macdonald to death.
Another foreigner victim who was murdered in September is Anthony Nicholas. Nicholas was another Brit. One difference here is that Nicholas was a long term resident of the Philippines, having lived in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental for more than 30 years already. Nicholas owned a resort there in Sipalay. Nicholas was shot multiple times by armed men as he rode in his motorized tricycle.
Previous to September, there was a rash of killings in Angeles City in July 2010, including the killings of three foreigners there. Mark Dizon was arrested in this case, and is alleged to be the killer.
So, is it getting more dangerous for foreigners in the Philippines? It would appear so. However, I personally do not feel danger living here. I talked with an expat friend last week who lives not so far from the area where many of these killings have occurred, and he told me that he is feeling uneasy about going out in public these days, though. What a shame. Over the past years, the Philippines has gained a reputation where journalists are regularly killed. Is it now becoming a place where foreigners can expect to be stabbed or gunned down? I hope not, but this seems to be a pattern that we should keep an eye on.