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There is just no doubt about it, the authorities in the Philippines are out to persecute foreigners that visit or live in the Philippines. The Philippines authorities are out to get the foreigners living in the Philippines. I hear this all the time. Honestly, I’m sick of hearing it. I have seen zero evidence this is true. Still, it is a commonly held belief. Generally it is hogwash. There could be some exceptions. Let’s talk about where I think this idea comes from and where it may actually have some basis.

It can be expressed in many ways. Often someone points out that a foreigner gets into trouble but you Philippines Authoritynever hear about a Filipino getting into the same trouble. The main reason for this is that the press and the people make a bigger issue out of it when it involves a foreigner. That does not imply that foreigners are treated differently than Filipino are in the legal process.

Its More Scandalous In the Philippines?

The only thing it implies that it sells media. Papers sell better, people go to YouTube and watch TV more and it becomes viral. It may be more scandalous in the Philippines if a foreigner does something less than wise. It is not any more illegal in most cases. It is not treated any different.

The exceptions to it being any more illegal are in the areas of immigration rules. Foreigners have a more restricted right to speech and then there are a whole slew of immigration regulations. The immigration regulations are less stringent than most Western nations though. That’s just not a valid argument. Try to go to the USA on a tourist visa and I think you’ll quickly see it is far more difficult.

The same thing happens in the USA. When a foreigner is at the center of a crime or scandalous situation, the Americans eat this kind of news up. And the press is very happy to give Americans what they want. Doing so brings in the advertising dollars. So this phenomenon is not unique to the Philippines. It really isn’t more scandalous here than in any other place in the world. Only the players change. Now though, it is usually the white man that is an outsider. Some people need to remember how that feels and learn to treat people better.

If there is a shed of truth to the authorities use a double standard where foreigners it comes in three areas. I don’t think there is any truth to it. If there is, it is slight. I really think it is just well through through. Those three areas would include:

  • Family Matters
  • Especially Foreigners
  • Human Trafficking


The Family is King in the Philippines

In the Philippines, especially out in the rural provinces, the concept of family resembles that of “A man’s home is his Castle” in Western law. The importance of family to nearly every Filipino cannot be emphasized strongly enough, It is very unlikely that you will ever come first over your partner’s blood family. I would really hate to see that change myself. It must be nice to know there are people you can count on and not to ever be alone.

Tanod in the PhilippinesWhen it comes to domestic disputes, authorities are highly reluctant to get involved. I don’t know that it is any truer where a foreigner is married to a Filipina. There might be some difference but I doubt it is very much. If you’re not legally married, well that’s scandalous and will never be as respected as much as a legal marriage in the Philippines. I have seen some evidence that domestic abuse is either more likely when a foreigner is involved or that it is more likely to get reported. I suspect it is more likely to get reported.

If a family asks for police help, the police will help. I’ve seen murder cases where the police stated they would wait for an official request from the family. I don’t remember the particulars. It involved an older couple. I think a man killed his wife in a very brutal fashion. Then set him on fire or something very unusual. He thought she was aswang (shape shifter legend in the Philippines) or the devil or something superstitious. There was likely some dementia involved and it sounded like it was present in both of the parties. The were very old and elders are highly respected in the Philippines.

So the family is king in the Philippines. I’m sure it goes all the way back to tribal times in the Philippines and I hope it is never diminished. If you are a foreigner with no history in the Philippines, no roots and especially have not embraced the culture of the Philippines there is no reasonable expectation for a family to treat you like a Filipino. That family’s loyalty will be with their family member. You can’t expect anything different.

When a family goes to authorities and asks for help that is out of the ordinary and likely to be highly considered. I suspect where the spouse is also Filipino then the family has some societal pressures they don’t have when the spouse is a foreigner. Families like to deal with situations internally. So if the family of a husband were to go to the authorities over a matter, the family of the wife might be offended by this. Also, the community would likely be offended. This would make it even less likely that a Filipino family would go to the authorities. It’s unlikely in the first place.

For these reasons, I think it is merely more likely to get reported to authorities where a foreigner is involved. Once reported, I don’t’ think the authorities are going to act any differently. Though, I’m not sure there wouldn’t be more reluctance when both parties are Filipino. Just seems like human nature to me.

And Especially Foreigners

Twice I’ve heard prosecutors in the Philippines use the term of “Especially foreigners.” It made me a little sad to hear it honestly. I don’t think there is any basis in the law for it. I’m pretty certain there is not. Neither of these prosecutors were on the payroll of the government of the Philippines.

They were special prosecutors. Interest groups had hired them to prosecute a case. In one of thosePolice Car in Bogo City cases the prosecutor was hired by an agency in Cebu, I think it was the Department of Social Welfare and Development but I’m not at all certain.

One of the cases involved a possible pedophile and the other was an environmental issue centered in Bantayan Island.

I see it as more of an expression of the feeling of the people of the Philippines rather than the government and I’ve only seen two instances of it.

Many believe that if you end up in a court against a Filipino, then there might be some bias to you. I know expats that have been involved in legal situations and won their disputes.  I also know of a case relating to a resort where there appeared to be some bias.

I don’t think that bias had anything to do with foreigner vs. locals. I think it had to do with powerful family vs. a non powerful person. If true, then I don’t think it has anything to do with the loosing party being a foreigner.  The resort issue  isn’t an opinion I’m willing to discuss in public in much detail. It is covered more in my eBook but with some caution there as well. I don’t ‘think angering a powerful political family in the Philippines is a great idea nor do I think it would be a great idea in the USA either.

Human Trafficking is a Foreign Problem

I’ve seen too many instances of officials in the Philippines stating something like this for it to be ignored. I’ve seen statements to the effect that is always a foreign problem. I don’t think that is true. Now I would say that international trafficking always is by definition but much of the trafficking under today’s definition of human trafficking occurs internally. It is often completely internal and involves only Filipinos.

I see numerous instances of Filipinos being charged with human trafficking. I believe that far more natives are prosecuted under this law than foreigners. Many times even in international trafficking the only person that gets “nabbed” is the Filipinos. The Filipinos in the Philippines that are assisting the foreign operation. The foreigner never enters the Philippines. That makes jurisdiction a complex situation and perhaps the other country not agreeing that it is a trafficking situation under their law.

When a Filipino is involved it will get some press. Probably online but not plastered all over the front pages for days at a time. It won’t be the lead story on the nightly TV news and it won’t go viral. There isn’t as much public interest. So we don’t hear much about it. Now if a foreigner does the same thing, then yes, it will very likely get more coverage. It might get international coverage. That’s not a function of the government. Public pressure can influence government though. I don’t’ think there is any doubt about that. That isn’t unique to the Philippines.

Smiling Authority in the PhilippinesI’d love nothing more to see the “Us vs. them” mentality leave the human condition. I don’t see it going away any time soon. It is not unique to the Philippines. I believe the Philippines to be far less racial country than the USA. Race just doesn’t play as big of a part in the day to day lives of the people. Oh, it plays some role.

There is animosity toward Koreans and it comes from both the locals and other foreigners. I don’t know any Koreans so I don’t know. I suspect the hard feelings are caused by misinterpretations of cultures. That does not imply that foreigners are treated any differently here than are the local by the government of the Philippines. And some Filipino don’t like Westerners at all. They are the exception and I suspect most of them would not display their dislike. The time I have seen that is from overseas Filipino. Usually young men that have never been in the Philippines. Their culture is Western, and not the same as Filipino living in the Philippines.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen yourself where this has happened, where a foreigner was treated differently? If so, I’d love to hear about it if you’re willing to go into the details of it. In cases where you heard about a situation, well, I’ve heard lots of stuff that gets passed around different communities in the Philippines. I just don’t find any evidence of it happening in my life in the Philippines. I hope I never do see it but I know I had a lot of fear of being treated badly because I am a foreigner. That fear based on what others said. What I found was the fear to be completely unjustified.

I have been well welcomed. I get special treatment that is favorable. I have never been treated badly by anyone because I’m a foreigner that I know of. Don’t believe everything a so called expat tells you. Chances are, he’s not really an expat that has actually lived in the Philippines. To be an expat, you’re home must be in a country other than where you were born. Until that happens, the person is not committed to his new land. That’s okay, it’s a personal choice. Such a person can have a lot of knowledge about another land. There will however be gaps in that knowledge. Gaps that an expat can see quickly.

Enjoy the Philippines without fear of being persecuted by the authorities. I have been living in the Philippines for more than four years and I don’t’ see any of it. One day, I hope to start a business in the Philippines so I can explore that aspect of it. If there is any bias, it may lay there. I don’t have any experience in that and neither do most other expats.

I do not believe that in our day to day lives of the average foreigner living in the Philippines, there is any bias by authorities toward us. If there is any, all I’ve seen is favorable bias.

By Rusty Ferguson

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