Kidnappings in the Philippines are alive and well. I am alarmed by the numbers I am seeing. Philippine authorities have said the kidnapping gangs may be testing the resolve of the new Philippine President on this issue. I don’t have any doubt about his resolve on catching kidnappers and reducing the threat they pose to the Philippines.
Few things are more discouraging to potential travellers than the threat of being kidnapped. Not the way I want to go on a crash diet. The idea of being kidnapped is not something I think of often but it does strike terror in my heart when I think of how I would fair in such a situation. I don’t think it would go well for me.
What is the most alarming about what I’ve read today is that the number of reported kidnappings in the Philippines may be greatly understated. For example, the Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order recently stated that it recorded 56 kidnap-for-ransom cases in the first six months of 2010. The Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response (PACER) group reported only twelve during the same period.
The reason for this is not that the Philippines is trying to cover up the higher rate. Instead, the number of cases reported to government authorities is lower than the actual. Families often prefer to pay the ransom and get their loved ones back quietly. They believe this will increase the chances that kidnappers will release their family members unharmed.
A risk counstancy group, The Pacific Strategies & Assessments (PSA) released a report showing that there were 135 kidnapping for ransom cases in 2008 which was an increase of 25% from 2007. The report indicated that 76% of those kidnapped in the Philippines were Filipino.
Those most likely to be kidnapped were upper middle class and not the affluent or politically connected. It is said the kidnapping gangs believe there will be less risk to them by going after the less connected individual. This helps to keep their activities under the radar of the press. Likewise, kidnapping foreigners brings the kidnap for ransom groups far more attention than they wish to bare.
So in the end, while kidnappings in the Philippines are still a significant threat, kidnappings on expats are far less common.
To reduce your trouble in the Philippines, avoid conflict with the locals. This is very important. You don’t want someone mad at you. Don’t give them a motive. Another important security precaution is to keep a low profile. Be careful not to show off your wealth. Don’t wear gold! Some say don’t carry your nice camera around. I’m going to take my nice camera, especially if I ever get a really nice one.
These reports should serve as a notice of caution. It will not prevent me from enjoy living in the Philippines.
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