Foreigners can’t buy land in the Philippines, so besotted foreigners would often buy land, or a house in the name of their wife or girlfriend. If the relationship went sour the man would at some point realize that his lady had the house, and he had no way to get back his investment. Often, these guys would contact the Embassy thinking they would help – they would not. What they would do is ask me or another warden to help the man ‘negotiate’ his problem, usually to no avail as the lady ‘landowner’ had all the cards.
Sometime there may be some legal recourse, but the hapless boyfriend/husband soon learnt that the foreigner will never win a court case against a local,unless he has enough funds to bribe the judge – and in the Philippines I never met a judge who could not be bribed – and even then, the chances of ever getting any of your hard earned cash back was very slim .The other, and more common, issue was a problem with a lady. In Manila, the biggest criminals are the police – so if you’re in trouble, who do you turn to..
A favourite scam which I encountered many times was for the unsuspecting foreigner to pick up a girl in the street and take her back to his room. When she went to ‘powder her nose’ she would plant a packet of drugs in the bathroom, then send a text to her policeman accomplice. A few minutes later, the policeman would knock on the door and demand to come in. He would search the toilet and find the drugs and haul the poor guy off to jail, or, for anything from $100 to $500 cash, they would let him go there and then. The sensible guys would pay up and put it down to experience, but some naively wanted to take their chance with the ‘justice system’ – little realizing that the legal system was nothing like what they were used to at home. Nobody (the police, the lawyers, the judges) cared whether you were guilty or not.
All they cared about was how much money they could extort from you before you managed to bribe your way out of the problem. It’s a big eye-opener for anyone who’d grown up in a half decent legal system. Most were surprised when they were told that their embassy could do nothing to help them – the government policy being not to interfere in the affairs of the country. Eventually they would pay up, because being in a Philippine jail is no fun. The saddest cases were those that were stuck there for years because they had no money, but no one believed them, and thought if they held onto them long enough, they will get money from somewhere. On that sad note I will leave you until next time. Please do reply to me with any thoughts or observations – or pick up one of my books below to learn more about life in the Philippines.